Oklahoma Attorney General says board didn't have authority to make marijuana amendments

FILE - This Sept. 30, 2016, file photo shows a marijuana bud before harvesting at a rural area near Corvallis, Ore. The Oregon agency overseeing the state's legal medical marijuana industry admits in a report it has not effectively provided oversight of growers and others, creating opportunities for weed to be diverted into the highly profitable black market. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

Oklahoma's Attorney General has advised the State Board of Health that they acted outside their authority in adding amendments to rules regulating medical marijuana.

Attorney General Mike Hunter said that the rules passed by the State Board of Health banning smokable products and requiring a pharmacist in all dispensaries were "inconsistent with the plain language of State Question 788". He also advised the board to reconvene and amend the rules.

“Although I didn’t support State Question 788, the people of the state have spoken and I have a legal duty to honor the decision made by the electorate. My advice today is made pursuant to that responsibility as attorney general." Hunter said.

Health Department Interim Director Tom Bates asked Hunter to review litigation against his agency that came after the board added the amendments to the rules. Hunter says that the board can only limit the forms of marijuana products that are confined to food and safety standards and cannot prohibit the sale of smokable, vapable, edible or other forms of marijuana. He also stated that the board does not have the authority to impose additional requirements on licensees, which does not allow for them to require pharmacists.

“I have no doubt that the board in good faith sought to regulate marijuana in a manner it believed would best promote the health and safety of Oklahomans,” Hunter said. “However, in so doing, the board made policy judgments not authorized by statute. Such policy decisions are the exclusive prerogative of the legislature and the people.”

Hunter's advice also outlines the following concerns:

  • Restricting dispensaries to limited locations;
  • Prohibiting dispensaries from co-locating with other businesses;
  • Requiring medical marijuana be grown, processed and dispensed in enclosed structures;
  • Requiring a surety bond for licensing;
  • Setting hours of operation;
  • Limiting the amount of THC in flower, leaf or concentrate for sale or distribution.

Following the State Board of Health's meeting to adopt the rules, the Oklahoma State Health Department's General Counsel Julie Ezell claimed she had been receiving threats from medical marijuana advocates. After an investigation, authorities say they discovered Ezell sent the threats to herself. She resigned from her position last week.

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