By Rep. Scott Fetgatter
State Representative
The medical marijuana working group is in full swing. We have had two days of testimony from the organizations that supported and pushed for State Question 788, and at the most recent meeting, we heard from Oklahoma Health Commissioner Tom Bates and his staff from the Oklahoma Department of Health. To this point, the meetings have been informative and necessary to the task of creating a structure to implement medical marijuana.
scott fetgatterI do want to be clear on something regarding the working group. There are many people that have decided that we are listening to people to understand their views on medical marijuana or what they think of the state question. There seems to be this thought that since we had the groups that are supportive of State Question 788 for the first two day that the next groups will be people against the state question. This is not the case. We are listening to subject matter experts that have information to help the legislature get this program right.
The people decided on State Question 788, and our job now is to ensure that it is implemented in a way that upholds the will of the people and is properly regulated. Several weeks ago, after the OSDH board implemented emergency rules that overregulated State Question 788, the legislative medical marijuana working group was formed to fix the problems that the board created. Since that time, the OSDH board has reversed course and opted for a more voter-friendly set of rules that are the bare basics of the state’s medical marijuana program. It is now up to the legislature to continue to move this process forward through legislation that protects the will of the people and the safety of Oklahoma citizens.
After meeting and speaking to several members of the Department of Health and marijuana advocacy groups, it has become clear that one of the legislatures main jobs while working to implement this new law is to ensure that a structure is set up to regulate and inspect commercial growers and distributors. Everyone who has testified before the working group has expressed the need for an inspection program that is consistent with the state question and also protects consumers. However, the system must not create a cost barrier that keeps Oklahoma small business owners and entrepreneurs from entering this industry.
As I have mentioned before, this state question has not only opened up new avenues for people to pursue help for pain and ailments, it has also created a new industry in Oklahoma. One of my biggest concerns is that this legislation will be rolled out in a way that helps big businesses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa at the expense of local businesses in downtown Haskell or Okmulgee.
Moving forward, I plan on learning more about how other states have regulated marijuana, and which states have been effective at ensuring a quality product in an environment that promotes quality employment. If we can figure out this combination, we can not only have safer medical marijuana, but we can do it in a way that builds a better community.
As always, I consider it a great joy in life to serve you in the Oklahoma Legislature. If you have questions, concerns or feedback, please reach out to my office at (405)557-7373.