Gov.: New Medical Marijuana Rules Were Problematic Before Approval

Friday, July 20th 2018, 11:01 am
By: Grant Hermes

As both Gov. Mary Fallin and Attorney General Mike Hunter call on the state Board of Health to revise two controversial medical marijuana rules, questions are being raised about how those rules were able to garner Fallin’s signature in the first place.

The rules which required pharmacists to be present at medical marijuana dispensaries and banned smokable marijuana were passed on July 10 by the Board of Health.

During the meeting, the board’s former general counsel, Julie Ezell, advised against passing the rules.

“I don’t think we can get there under the law,” Ezell told members about one of the rules in the public meeting.

The rules were signed by Fallin the next day.

Since then, the board has been sued by two different groups, forcing the Interim Director of the State Health Department, Tom Bates, to request a review from Hunter.

On Wednesday, Hunter, and subsequently Fallin, said the board should rescind and revise the emergency rules because the board acted outside its authority.

On Thursday, Fallin’s press secretary Michael McNutt said the rules were looked at by the Governor’s team before she gave her approval, after Ezell’s warning. McNutt also said 17 agencies were involved including the Attorney General's Office, in developing the rules prior to Fallin’s approval, but clarified Friday he was not certain whether the AG's office was involved.

“It was all or nothing,” McNutt said about whether Fallin knew she was signing rules that could be problematic. “[Fallin] was listening to the people ... and the people wanted medical marijuana now.”

He reiterated concerns about how quickly the deadline for creating the rules was approaching. The deadline is July 26.

News 9 previously reported that McNutt denied being interviewed by News 9 about the rules to the attorney general’s office, according to the AG’s spokesman. Since that report, McNutt told News 9 he never spoke with the attorney general's office. 

According to the attorney general’s press secretary Alex Gerszewski, Hunter only saw the final version of the rules but was not asked to review them by the governor.

Instead, the first time he was asked to weigh in on the rules was when his office was sent a letter requesting the review by Bates.

Members of the Board of Health have claimed to not know or have been unwilling to divulge who authored the emergency rules.

The Board of Health is planning an emergency meeting to revise the rules although a date has not been set for that meeting. 

House and Senate Democrats have called on Fallin to call a special session to create the rules surrounding the state’s medical marijuana rules.

Fallin and Hunter have both said they believe the state can handle setting rules without a special session.

In the meantime, the legislature is convening a working group of bipartisan members to discuss rules going forward ahead of the next session.