Oklahoma Cities Adjust Ordinances after Medical Marijuana Legalization

After the passing of State Question 788, the law allowing medical marijuana in Oklahoma, the state Health Department wasn't the only organization scrambling to adopt regulations related to the cultivation and sale of marijuana. Local cities and towns also adopted ordinances pertaining to medical marijuana, in some cases favoring stricter municipal laws than state laws, and in others, conceding that they should not attempt to override the state's medical marijuana laws.

Cities including Elk City, Okemah, Sulphur and Yukon have established ordinances prohibiting the commercial cultivation and wholesale of marijuana inside city limits. Some towns have created "zone of safety laws" preventing retail medical marijuana sales within 600 to 1320 feet (depending on the municipality) of schools and daycare facilities; churches; playgrounds, public parks, public pools and recreational facilities; correctional facilities, rehabilitation centers or halfway houses; and other medical-marijuana related businesses.

Essentially, these laws treat medical marijuana differently than other legal drugs and medications. There are no such limitations on pharmacies dispensing controlled substances like opiods, benzodiazepines, and carisoprodol--the "holy trinity" of drug abuse. Yet marijuana has been so stigmatized that its sale--even legally, for medicinal purpose by licensed individuals--is regulated much like strip clubs and sex shops, linking medical marijuana to vices and immorality here in the Bible belt.

But one city, Muskogee, actually backed off of its initial attempt to legislate ordinances that extended beyond the intent of the law in SQ 788. When the city council was adopting medical marijuana laws, the city was creating ordinances pertaining to the business licensing of medical marijuana commercial growers and retailers.

Somewhere along the way, the city added home-growers to the list. The proposed ordinance would have required local medical-marijuana users who wanted to grow their own marijuana to obtain a license from the city.

When the council met to discuss the proposed ordinance, medical marijuana patient advocates were on hand, ready to speak out and argue against the propose ordinance.

Instead, they were surprised to find that the city of Muskogee backed off of its limitations on personal growers. The Muskogee city attorney noted that state law already indicated that there was nothing immoral or wrong about the use of medical marijuana, and that it was not up to the city to determine that. Instead, it was up to the city to "craft regulations that we would have for any other business, and so that's what we did."

By adding provisions related to personal growers, the city would have overstepped its original intent, as well as overstepping the laws set forth by the state of Oklahoma. The deputy city attorney furthered that by removing the provisions related to patients growing their own marijuana, the ordinance was "now in its purest form what it was intended to be, which is a business license registration."

However, the city of Muskogee is quick to remind citizens that the municipal laws could change very soon. It is anticipated that the state legislature will undertake the revision of medical marijuana laws when it reconvenes in early 2019. If state medical marijuana laws do change, municipal ordinances must likewise change accordingly.

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