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Lawmakers Move Forward on Medical Marijuana Regulations Before Oklahoma Vote

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Oklahomans haven't yet voted on a medical marijuana initiative, but the legislature is already moving to regulate it.

Sen. Ervin Yen proposes limiting use to terminally ill patients and those with neuropathic pain, muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis or paraplegia, nausea or vomiting because of chemotherapy, or loss of weight or appetite from AIDS or cancer.

People with persistent pain other treatments aren’t resolving would not qualify for a medical marijuana card.

"I’m just afraid that’s too difficult for a physician to figure out if a patient who just wants to get high says, 'I’ve tried five different opioids and I’ve tried five different non-drug interventions, and none of them are working. Can you put me on some medical marijuana?'" Yen said.

Oklahomans will vote whether to legalize medical marijuana in June. Sen. Adam Pugh said that gives lawmakers enough time to tackle regulations next year.

"And here we are telling the people of Oklahoma, once again, 'We don’t care what you think. We don’t care what you stand for. We’re just going to do what we think is best. Trust us. Trust the government,'" Pugh said.

Senate Bill 1120 addresses not only who may use medical marijuana and how much they may have, but also who may distribute it. The measure initially limits the state to 20 dispensing sites and lets the State Board of Health set prices.

Oklahomans for Health got the medical marijuana initiative on the June ballot. Chairman Chip Paul said those conditions are strict.

"I don’t think I would be investing much, you know, in an Oklahoma business based on those conditions," Paul said.

SB1120 also lets the governor terminate all dispensary licenses if advised there is a risk to public health or safety. The bill made it out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Oklahomans for Health is more hopeful about a House bill set for a Wednesday committee hearing.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.