A Tulsa attorney said he plans to sue after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill requiring commercial medical cannabis licensees to work with a waste disposal company when they need to discard certain products.
But the bill’s House sponsor and a cannabis industry lobbyist who helped craft its current language said the measure gives businesses needed guidance on remaining in legal compliance.
Stitt on Thursday signed Senate Bill 882, called the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Waste Management Act, which establishes policies for applying for and obtaining a medical marijuana waste disposal license. The act allows for the issuance of 10 waste disposal licenses, which will cost $5,000 each, but has a provision indicating more licenses can be authorized after the first year if necessary.
It also amends a small portion of House Bill 2612, commonly known as the “Unity Bill” that will take effect by Aug. 31, to exclude cannabis roots, stems, stalks and fan leaves from the definition of “medical marijuana waste.”
Most of the bill takes effect Nov. 1, but an emergency clause authorizes the destruction of those four items by open burning, incineration, composting, mulching, burying or another method approved by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.
Prior to the passage of SB 882, they could have fallen under the requirements for disposal through a third-party company.
However, Tulsa attorney Ron Durbin said in an interview on Friday that he plans to file a lawsuit over SB 882 because he believes it is unconstitutional. He contended the bill in practice will single out 10 companies for “disparate treatment” over other groups, which will cause product prices to increase while a select few get an unfair advantage.
Durbin said the bill opens the door for the companies selected to wrongly force businesses to sign multi-year contracts and gives the OMMA, which will have authority to select companies, too much power. He also said the definition of waste is overbroad because it uses the word “debris,” which he thinks the OMMA can define as it sees fit.
“It’s an industry that was not needed,” Durbin said, adding: “It’s like playing a football game without knowing what the rules are.”
He noted that businesses already have to abide by stringent rules from the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, the Oklahoma Tax Commission and local government ordinances.
State Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, said he believed SB 882 is a good bill that protects businesses from liability without infringing on the rights of homegrowers. Fetgatter, who was the House sponsor of SB 882, said the waste disposal company would handle items such as cannabis that fell on the floor, is too old for medical use or failed product testing.
Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, is the Senate sponsor and the former director of the OBNDD.
“We wouldn’t allow a pharmacy, for example, to just toss their expired opioids in the garbage so somebody could come by and pick them up,” Fetgatter said. “This is another way we are working to prevent diversion that hurts our legitimate law-abiding marijuana businesses.”
Bud Scott, who leads the Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Association trade group, said his organization worked with Fetgatter to improve the bill by having the definition of “waste” amended. Scott, who is also part of the OMMA Food Safety Standards Board, said the added incorporation of the DEQ’s disposal rules into SB 882 gives businesses more options on how to dispose of unwanted and unneeded items.
“The way it was originally drafted was that the only form of compliance (monitoring) was through OBNDD rules and the only way to dispose of it would be incineration,” he said, adding that his organization did not write or push for the bill. “Really, there’s no fear of diversion from roots, stalks and stems. There’s no viable use for some of these products.”
But Durbin questioned how the companies would be chosen to receive waste disposal licenses, saying he believes they will go to those owed “political favors” or “made campaign contributions to the right people.” SB 882 does not explicitly specify how they should be selected or create a merit-based structure, but it specifies what information should be provided on applications.
“You’ll have Joe Blow who has $5,000 versus someone who’s got political connections and is a big campaign contributor,” Durbin said. “I’m going to put my money on the big campaign contributor getting the license.”
Though neither Fetgatter nor Scott said they were in favor of imposing a 10-license limit, both pointed out that the state can remove the cap a year after the bill takes effect.
Both men also denied Durbin’s claims about contributions or political favors playing any role in the process.