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Medical Marijuana Working Group Will Meet Until It Has "Something That Works"


Oklahoma lawmakers’ Medical Marijuana Working Group met for the first time Wednesday afternoon.

The 13-member, bipartisan, bicameral group is taking up medical marijuana rules in the wake of State Board of Health actions that drew two lawsuits. It will meet Wednesdays until it comes up with a set of regulations.

A variety of groups and individuals will give presentations during that time, but co-chair Rep. Jon Echols said voters’ decision to legalize medical marijuana will not be litigated before the group.

"We are not going to have presenters that are going to tell us why State Question 788 should not be the law, and, presenters, don’t feel the need to defend State Question 788," Echols said. "It is the law of this land, and we are here to effectuate the will of the people."

Four groups gave presentations Wednesday. Three focused on how regulations may affect individuals and told lawmakers people are worried about overregulation.

Attorney Ron Durbin told lawmakers they should look at Illinois’ medical marijuana laws as an example, as they are the most similar to what voters approved through SQ788.

"Every regulation or statute that passes as it relates to this is going to drive up the cost of the medication. And it’s one of the reasons why medical cannabis has been so successful in the 30 states is that it provides an opportunity for people to get medication at a reasonable cost," Durbin said.

Members of Green the Vote said regulations beyond what voters approved in SQ788 are unworkable, whether that’s requiring women seeking a medical marijuana card to take a pregnancy test, additional restrictions on dispensaries or precluding people with marijuana offense convictions from working in the industry.

Oklahomans for Health founder Chip Paul said lawmakers should consider doing even more for those with marijuana offenses on their records.

"I would ask you to strongly consider that if you have prisoners out there that can state a medical condition for their usage of medical marijuana and they’re only in jail for marijuana offenses that those people immediately be granted clemency," Paul said.

New Health Solutions Oklahoma Executive Director Bud Scott fielded several questions from lawmakers after his presentation, telling lawmakers SQ788 leaves too many policy gaps if it's implemented as-is, and the Oklahoma State Department of Health doesn't have the authority to address them.

New Health Solutions Oklahoma proposed nearly 300 pages of rules for medical marijuana, which he said were modeled after Colorado's laws. Scott told the working group those rules are a "living document" and could change according to public input, adding inspections for home growers were already removed.

Scott also told lawmakers medical marijuana often isn't the gold rush many people expect it to be since federal regulations prohibit tax deductions for those business-related expenses, making business owners' effective tax rates around 40 percent.

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.