EDITORIAL: Oklahomans understand what we voted for
July 11--We heard it after a set of criminal justice reform amendments, State Questions 780 and 781, were approved by Oklahoma voters two years ago.
"Voters didn't understand what they were voting for."
Legislation designed to stymie the constitutional amendments was introduced, but it failed.
Now that Oklahomans have overwhelmingly approved State Question 788, which legalizes medicinal marijuana, we're hearing the same tired, offensive line.
That State Question 788 needs supporting regulation is widely agreed upon both both proponents and opponents. That's why the state's burgeoning trade organization called for a special legislative session, so these regulations could be hashed out in the light of day by legislators who will be beholden to voters in November.
Instead, Gov. Mary Fallin opted to allow the state board of health to impose regulations, which they did via the use of emergency rules Tuesday (which still need to be approved by Fallin). The rules include prohibiting the sale of "smokable" marijuana and requiring medicinal clinics to have a pharmacist on site.
Whether you support those changes, it's clear Oklahomans understood what they were voting for when they cast their ballots for SQ 788, and it's obvious they intended smokable marijuana to be an option for medicinal marijuana users.
Rather than hastily throwing "emergency" regulations at medical marijuana, the state should have been prepared for a potential passage, with an infrastructure already in place to ensure the people's wishes are implemented in a safe and efficient way.
With their actions on Tuesday, the state health board is inviting litigation, which could slow down the implementation of SQ 788.
"As I think it was said by one of our board members today, I would expect some kind of litigation to be filed about these rules regardless, even if they had passed the rules as submitted," said interim health Commissioner Tom Bates after the vote.
The regulation doesn't even make sense. Medicinal marijuana users would still be able to cultivate their own cannabis plants, which means the state would merely be prohibiting clinics from selling smokable marijuana, not keeping Oklahomans with the proper license from smoking it. The fact that these additional requirements were demanded by a group of health care professionals won't ease the minds of supporters, who are suspicious of the medical community's attempts to keep medicinal marijuana out of the hands of Oklahomans and their connections to opioid manufacturers.
Regardless, our elected officials and agency staffers need to understand that we knew what we were voting for. And a lack of preparation on the state's part isn't an excuse.
Fallin should reject these emergency rules, and the state board of health should be more concerned about the will of the voters than the head of the state medical association.