Clarification: Patients may not apply for state medical marijuana licenses until Aug. 25, 2018.
State Question 788 takes effect Thursday, but with emergency rules providing an extra 30 days for the state to establish the regulatory framework, that date now means only one thing: Most simple marijuana possession crimes will be punishable only by a $400 fine.
Oklahoma’s medical marijuana law states that starting July 26, 2018, those without a patient license found in possession of up to 1½ ounces of marijuana would face only a misdemeanor and $400 fine if they state to law enforcement a medical condition.
Currently, the punishment for possession of any amount of marijuana is subject to a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, with a conviction leading to a driver’s license suspension of anywhere from six months to three years. It is unclear how municipalities across the state will adjust their codes per this new law, but the city of Enid already has voted to adopt the new language as well as giving up on most paraphernalia crimes.
When asked about the law change, a Tulsa Police spokeswoman said the department is still awaiting word from the city’s legal department regarding how the city of Tulsa will guide police to deal with simple possession crimes.
The next date to circle is Aug. 25. By that Saturday, the Department of Health should have in place two important components of the medical marijuana program: the forms physicians will be required to submit if they plan to recommend cannabis treatments, and the applications for patients.
Doctors who recommend medical marijuana will have to prove to the Department of Health: 1) they are licensed in good standing, 2) that they have not been disciplined in the past for any behavior that would preclude their prescribing a controlled substance, and 3) that they do not hold any direct or economic interest in a commercial marijuana facility.
By statute, physicians are also required to complete training through the state licensure board if they will be recommending medical marijuana. Lyle Kelsey, director of the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision, said his group has already been meeting with the other licensure board for osteopaths to determine what training they will provide. In addition to educating doctors on the science of marijuana treatments, Kelsey said the training would primarily help doctors figure out how to work within statutory confines.
“I think that’s the main thing physicians want to know is how to make sure I’m doing right by the law and following the rules,” Kelsey said. “We realize there’s a short time frame ... so we will be able to get something out pretty quick, at least start making (the training materials) available.”
Doctors are prohibited by federal law from “aiding and abetting” the procurement and consumption of marijuana, so patients should not expect to hear from their physician on treatment dosages, deliveries or specific strains. Some Oklahoma doctors have said they will not recommend medical marijuana, so many patients would likely need to find a new physician if they want to pursue cannabis treatment. Before scheduling appointments with a physician about getting a medical marijuana recommendation, patients should inquire as to the doctor’s status per the state health department regulations.
Once a patient obtains the physician recommendation, they have 30 days to submit an application for a license. On the application, patients will have to swear not to divert marijuana in their possession for medical use. The law states that a patient may lose their license if authorities find they lied on their application or transferred marijuana to another individual (even as a gift to another patient).
Once a patient is licensed, home grow operations can begin. That may be the most expedient way for patients to get access to marijuana, as dispensaries would have to wait months for cultivation operations to provide processed and tested inventory. Either way, the law states that mature plants will not be authorized to be in a patient or grower’s possession until 60 days after Aug. 27.
Amendments to emergency rules put in place by the State Board of Health and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin have drawn two legal challenges, one of which seeks an injunction to stop implementation of the medical marijuana program. Fallin and Attorney General Mike Hunter have issued statements urging the board to rescind the rules that Hunter said members lacked authority to make.
Health agency spokesman Tony Sellars told the Tulsa World that a special meeting of the board was unlikely to happen before July 30, so these rules could still be in place when patients begin applying for licenses starting Aug. 25. Sellars said the emergency rules have no impact on the establishment of the licensing application process, but those seeking a commercial medical marijuana license in Oklahoma are still looking at a lot of unknowns.