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No Special Session Necessary after Passage of Medical Marijuana in SQ 788

30-Jun-2018

Just a week and a half after announcing that a special session of the state legislature would be necessary if voters approved medical marijuana under State Question 788, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has decided that such a session will not be required.

Initially, Gov. Fallin was concerned that there were some implementation issues which lawmakers would need to address between the passing of SQ 788 and the state's collection of applications for licenses beginning August 25.

Prior to the primary elections and vote on SQ 788 on June 26, Gov. Fallin was among those concerned that the proposal was worded so loosely that, while it claimed to support medical marijuana, it actually allowed recreational marijuana because of the vague and ambiguous wording of the law. At that time, Michael McNutt, the governor's communications director, released a statement regarding Fallin's intent should the law pass:

The governor said today she intends to call a special session if voters approve State Question 788 to address the practical implementation of the proposal. The governor is concerned that the state would not be able to have a system established in 30 days after passage as called for in SQ 788. The governor still plans to talk with Senate and House leadership about a possible special session.

However, this week, Gov. Fallin backtracked, saying that such a session would not be necessary. According to the governor's office, the Oklahoma Health Department has made sufficient progress in developing rules for licensing and obtaining medical marijuana that will allow emergency implementation of the law and will render a special session unnecessary. Fallin addressed the about face, saying:

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has developed emergency rules that will ensure the health and safety of Oklahomans as well as being fair and balanced for the marijuana industry. The Health Department has been working with other agencies the past several months to develop a medical and proper regulatory framework to make sure marijuana use is truly for valid medical reasons.

She continued:

The voters have spoken, and it's important that our state has a responsible system up and running to meet the deadlines outlined in State Question 788. If circumstances develop that adjustments to the Health Department rules are necessary, those can be addressed when lawmakers return in regular session early next year.

Beginning July 26, the Oklahoma Health Department will have information available online for those wishing to obtain a license to use, grow, or sell medical marijuana. However, the agency will not begin processing or receiving applications until August 25, and the availability of medical marijuana in the state may take much longer. While some predict medical marijuana could be available to patients in Oklahoma as soon as October or November, more conservative estimates say that it will likely not be available in the state for 9-12 months

Among supporters of SQ 788, there is some concern that once the Oklahoma legislature is in session, there will be some attempt to reverse the law and overturn the will of the people. You may remember that in November 2016, voters approved criminal justice reform, only for state legislators to propose legislation that would effectively undo their votes. Oklahomans voted to downgrade most drug possession laws from felonies to misdemeanors; however, HB 1482 re-instituted a felony for drug possession in school zones. When people protested that the legislature attempted to quiet and oppose their voices, one state representative argued that voters were too uninformed. Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville (who faces a run-off in August after failing to reclaim his seat in the primaries) said, "It's not overturning the will of the people, because the people did not get a chance to vote on it." The bill ultimately failed amid criticism from voters.
It seems that voters will be primed to speak up once again if the state legislature creates laws intended to undo their votes in favor of medical marijuana in Oklahoma.

 



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