Oklahoma medical pot rules proceed amid court challenge

August 22, 2018

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — More than 20 medical marijuana rules recently adopted in Oklahoma will stay in place after a judge shot down a court challenge seeking to block them from being implemented.

Cleveland County Judge Michael Tupper on Tuesday ruled against a legal petition asking for an emergency injunction on 21 medical marijuana regulations approved this month. Tupper said petitioners didn’t show “at this point” that the Oklahoma Board of Health overstepped its authority in imposing restrictions on State Question 788, which voters passed in June to legalize medical marijuana.

“There’s a lot here,” Tupper said of the rules. “This is uncharted territory for the state of Oklahoma.”

Board members first passed rules July 10 but redid them Aug. 1 after Attorney General Mike Hunter said the board had overstepped its authority . In applying for an emergency injunction, attorney Rachel Bussett argued that the Oklahoma Department of Health’s attempt to fix the rules “resulted in an ever bigger regulatory dumpster fire.”

Medical marijuana advocates were largely upset about a rule that states some growers will be more highly regulated, similar to those in the food service industry. Bussett said the rule “has potentially made any outdoor commercial cultivation an impossibility.”

Tupper sided with the Health Department, saying the rule does not impose any new requirements. He said it simply lets commercial licenses know that the Public Health Code still applies to their operations.

The challenge was still successful despite the court loss, said Bussett, who noted the Health Department’s appointment of all 12 members of the Medical Marijuana Food Safety Standards Board. The board, which recommends regulations to the state health agency, was required in the original State Question approved by voters but wasn’t implemented until a day after the injunction was requested.

“We’ve put their feet to the fire,” Bussett said. “The work that we are doing is pushing the Department of Health forward to act the way that they’re supposed to act.”

Another hearing won’t occur until after petitioners can exchange evidence with the Health Department. But the challenge could be moot by then.

“I hope the Legislature will step in,” Bussett said. “There is a myriad of different statutes that need to be fixed” that medical marijuana advocates have been working to present to lawmakers, she said.

Residents can start applying for medical marijuana licenses Saturday.

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