Governor Mary Fallin has approved the health department’s new rules for medical marijuana sales and use, but those new guidelines will likely face a challenge in court.
The rules place significant restrictions on the law approved by voters – no really strong marijuana and no smoking of it.
“Those are not reasonable,” said medical marijuana advocate Nora Sapp. “We the people spoke June 26th. We didn’t ask for permission. We told them what we are going to do.”
Two medical marijuana groups held a news conference Wednesday afternoon in response to the Oklahoma State Department of Health's emergency regulations issued Tuesday.
The Board of Health made two last-minute amendments to the rules they'd posted earlier in the week - namely that no smokable products can be sold and that a dispensary must have a pharmacist on staff.
The trade industry said they wanted some guidelines, “but one thing after another after another, and this thing does not even look like 788,” said Chip Paul with Oklahomans for Health. “We will absolutely fight this.”
Paul said he believes Oklahoma citizens’ rights were violated by the Department of Health after State Question 788 passed by a healthy margin.
"There’s no way in 788 we expected anyone to take away our right to smoke medical marijuana," he said. Paul vowed to take legal actions against the Department of Health.
Paul said any one of these rules might be livable, but the combination is not. He’s promising a legal fight, a political fight too. He said marijuana advocates will target candidates, work the legislature, and go to court for relief.
The rules created by the health department now have the Governor’s signature, who described the rules as a start and the quickest way to get the process going.
Governor Fallin said “Asking the Legislature to pass comprehensive legislation in a special session is not realistic.”
Cancer survivor Ray Jennings said he once thought marijuana was for losers, but his experience with cancer changed his mind.
Jennings said he couldn't eat or drink because of the location of his cancer. He said he would not have been able to take marijuana in its edible form, but he thinks being able to smoke it saved his life.
He said the pain and suffering cancer patients go through can be relieved with medical marijuana, and he strongly opposed the THC limits the regulations placed on products, saying it is not strong enough for cancer patients.
He also said having a pharmacist at every site will greatly increase the cost of having a dispensary - costs that will be passed on to patients. And the drug is not covered by insurance.
"This is not about an illicit drug, this is about a medicine that saves lives every day," Jennings said. “It’s ridiculous to try to limit this and it wasn’t out of the will to help, it was to try and hurt us because they never thought they would be in this position in Oklahoma.”
Another spokesperson at the news conference said only smokable products bring fast relief for medical marijuana patients. Edibles take an hour or more to work, he said.
"This is what happens when you put private interests ahead of patients," said Megan Dedmon of Wild Woman Wellness in Yukon.
The advocacy groups plan to file suit, but do not want to delay the law’s implementation – even as is.