EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an opinion column written by State Rep. Avery Frix.
Muskogee County voters approved State Question 788 by 56.4 percent; McIntosh County voters by 54 percent. Statewide, the vote was 57 percent in favor of the measure, which legalizes the licensed use, sale and growth of marijuana in Oklahoma for medicinal purposes.
From the state question itself, “A license is required for use and possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes and must be approved by an Oklahoma Board Certified Physician. The State Department of Health will issue medical marijuana licenses if the applicant is eighteen years or older and an Oklahoma resident. A special exception will be granted to an applicant under the age of eighteen, however these applications must be signed by two physicians and a parent or legal guardian. The Department will also issue seller, grower, packaging, transportation, research and caregiver licenses. Individual and retail businesses must meet minimal requirements to be licensed to sell marijuana to licensees. The punishment for unlicensed possession of permitted amounts of marijuana for individuals who can state a medical condition is a fine not exceeding four hundred dollars. Fees and zoning restrictions are established. A seven percent state tax is imposed on medical marijuana sales.”
It’s one thing to vote for a new law; it’s another thing entirely to implement it and to regulate a new industry.
What we must focus on is preserving the will of the people while we work on regulations that make sense for the protection of Oklahomans and that help guide this new industry as well as employers, Realtors, bankers, lawyers and others who will be called upon to assist license holders and granters.
With this in mind, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has created the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to oversee the implementation of SQ788. This panel, whose members are appointed by the commissioner of health, includes representatives from the following areas: a national or state marijuana industry association; a laboratory scientist or representative; a chemist or environmental scientist; employees of the Department of Agriculture, Poison Control, the ABLE Commission, the Board of Pharmacy, the Oklahoma Board of Osteopathic Physicians, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control. A member of the Oklahoma State Medical Association and an attorney licensed to practice in Oklahoma or a food processor or manufacturer will also be on the board.
This group has drafted a 61-page draft of emergency rules to regulate the new industry and the licensing of individuals who qualify for use under a licensed physician’s prescription, those who will grow, process, transport and dispense the product. The proposed rules also outline restrictions including a ban on having marijuana-infused products with an appearance that could potentially appeal to children – such as lollipops or gummy candies – and a ban on smoking marijuana in places where smoking is now prohibited and in front of minors, as well as proposals on what standards prescribing physicians should follow.
OSDH officials will meet July 10 to discuss the approval of the emergency rules.
In advance of the vote on SQ788, the governor said a special session of the Legislature would likely be necessary to ensure practical implementation of the law, expressing concern that the state wouldn’t be able to have a system operating within 30 days, as called for in the state question. Legislative leaders have assured her the Health Departments rules will be fine for now. If anything further is needed, the Legislature can consider that in the next session, which starts in February.
I’ve heard concerns from all sides of this issue I appreciate the input and will give all of it careful thought as I continue to consider the ramifications of this new law.
Meanwhile, if I can be of service to you, or you just want to share your ideas or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me on my cell phone at (918) 680-1218.
Avery Frix serves District 13 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at (405) 557-7302 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.