Legislative leaders traded press releases and announcements regarding the future of medical marijuana in Oklahoma, following semi-controversial actions by the Oklahoma State Board of Health.
First, House Speaker McCall (R-Atoka) and Senate Pro Tempore-designate Greg Treat (R-OKC) annonced the creation of a bipartisan working group on the issue:
House Speaker McCall, Senate President Pro Tempore-designate Treat Announce Creation of Bi-Partisan Working Group on Medical Marijuana
Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore-designate Greg Treat today announced the creation of a bi-partisan working group of House and Senate members to begin working with all medical marijuana stakeholders to determine a path forward for implementation that conforms to the will of the voters who recently approved State Question 788.
“We have an obligation to voters to get this right,” said Speaker McCall, R-Atoka. “The House is committed to implementing the will of our citizens in a responsible way that respects the desire of voters while also protecting public safety and addressing concerns from the business and medical communities. We have many lawmakers who want to be involved in crafting a permanent regulatory framework more in line with what the voters want and expect. This group will begin evaluating the Department of Health’s recently adopted and approved rules and meeting with the governor’s office, medical marijuana industry representatives, Health Department officials, healthcare providers and other stakeholders to determine the best approach forward.”
“The Oklahoma Senate will not undo the will of voters, who spoke loudly by passing State Question 788,” said Sen. Treat, R-Edmond. “While the Health Department and its commissioner did yeoman’s work in drafting emergency rules, the Board of Health’s adoption of last-minute amendments without public comments has undermined the public’s confidence in the system. Lawmakers have the ability to amend this law as we move forward to address any issues which may arise. A group of senators has been working diligently on this issue since April, and the new bipartisan, bicameral working group will be able to build upon that work. Lawmakers will work with all stakeholders to ensure we get this right. The legislative working group will help ensure a stable and effective regulatory framework is put in place so that State Question 788 can be implemented efficiently, effectively and safely in accordance with the will of Oklahoma voters.”
Speaker McCall and Pro-Tem-designate Treat will announce members of the working group early next week. The group has no set timetable yet for meeting or making recommendations.
This afternoon, House Democrats responded by calling for a special session:
House Democrats Release Statement Calling for Special Session
OKLAHOMA CITY – Minority Leader Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, released the following statement today after Gov. Mary Fallin signed the emergency rules for State Question 788. The rules, which were passed Tuesday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, forbid “smokeable” marijuana and require a pharmacist to be on staff in medical marijuana dispensaries.
“Today, the House Democratic Caucus stands together to urge Governor Fallin to reverse course and call the legislature into a special session so that we can setup a structure for legal medical marijuana.
We are glad to see the Speaker and the incoming majority leader of the Senate have committed to upholding the will of the people. We support the idea of a bipartisan working group only if a date for special session is chosen. Otherwise, we feel that the working group would be nothing more than a political stunt to ease the justified outrage of Oklahoma voters. If the Governor refuses to lead on this issue, we are calling on our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate to stand with us and use the two-thirds provision in the state constitution to bring the legislature back into session.
Although the majority of our caucus supported state question 788, we do have some members that did not. However, even those members stand with us today to say that the will of the people must be protected and that we cannot have a government that disregards election results. All members of the House Democratic Caucus feel that allowing the Oklahoma Department of Health rules to stand would be an act of complicity by this body to undermine the will of the people, and we feel that is unacceptable.”