Two bills dealing with the disposal of medical marijuana and medical marijuana businesses survived floor votes in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Thursday but still must make another tour of the Senate before reaching Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk.
Senate Bill 882, by Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, sets up a process for licensing and regulating medical marijuana waste management companies.
“We had a state close to us where one of the large growers had 200 pounds of marijuana and it failed testing,” said Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, the House sponsor.
“The grower of the marijuana had to dispose of it, and their means of disposal was to sell it to the cartel. We are just trying to make sure if we have those kinds of scenarios we’ll have third-party waste management companies that can dispose of it properly.”
Fetgatter said he expects the waste to primarily be spoiled raw or refined products or that fail a quality control test.
Some members became concerned when Fetgatter said the waste would be incinerated, worried that a haze from the burning marijuana might settle on neighbors. Fetgatter said that won’t be a problem.
“The incinerators would be self-contained,” he said.
Also accepted by the House was SB 532, by Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City. It outlines the process for dealing with medical marijuana businesses in foreclosure or bankruptcy.
SB 444, by Sen. Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher, ran into unexpected difficulty after House sponsor Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, rolled out three floor amendments for which even he didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm.
“I’m just trying to get the bill passed,” Wright said. “There was some opposition so I’m working the bill, trying to get something passed.”
The primary purpose of SB 444 is to phase in poll worker pay increases over the next decade in an effort to recruit and retain more of them. It also includes some revisions to laws governing county election boards.
But the bill ran into trouble because of late opposition to provisions that would have allowed students as young as 16 to be employed as poll workers and that would have repealed a ban on public employees working at the polls.
“If we’re trying to encourage more people to vote, especially young people, why are we excluding them?” asked Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa.
Wright said students could still work in ancillary polling place jobs but could not be inspectors, judges or clerks, which are the three paid positions.
Wright would not say who raised the issues so late in the legislative process, but Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, traced it to “a Republican National Committeeman” — actually former National Committeeman Steve Fair — who has come out in recent days against the measure.
In a piece published by several state newspapers, Fair complained that the political parties were not consulted about the changes, which include allowing the county election board secretary to ignore party leaders’ recommendations for poll workers.
“The poll workers are the eyes and ears of the party,” Fair wrote.
By law, at least one registered voter from each of the two largest parties in the state must be among the three primary poll workers at each precinct.
While Perryman attributed the about-face for SB 444 to Fair, the former committeeman’s piece did not mention Thursday’s most contentious issue — allowing public employees to work the polls.
Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont, the only House member to say much in support of the amendments, said allowing public employees to work at the polls amounted to “double dipping,” even though the employees would be doing it on their own time.
She also said it would be unfair to public employees to make them eligible to work at the polls.
“What I see is a section that asks our employees, who are already stretched, to take more time off,” said Crosswhite Hader. “They may do it willingly, but they may feel pressured.”
Perryman called the arguments in favor of the amendments “inconsequential,” and noted SB 444 had only one “no” vote in the Senate and went through House committee without dissent.
“This was a good bill,” said Perryman, D-Chickasha. “These amendments gut and effectively neuter a bill that was a very positive move in the right direction.”