Oklahoma Legislature revises medical marijuana program
Last update: January 14, 2020
On March 14, 2019, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed a "unity" medical cannabis bill, HB 2612, into law. HB 2612 revised the state’s voter-enacted medical cannabis program. While some changes, such as providing for lab-testing, are beneficial, others whittle away at patient protections.
Most notably, provisions protecting patients from losing their jobs for testing positive for medical cannabis metabolites (which can stay in one’s system for a month after use) have been seriously eroded: HB 2612 includes a broad exemption for “safety sensitive positions,” which includes any job involving driving, direct patient care, or direct child care.
Meanwhile, another bill to modify the medical cannabis law, including by increasing local control — SB 1030 — initially included a modest decriminalization provision. As passed by the Senate, SB 1030 would have reduced the penalty for simple possession of cannabis to a fine of up to $400. Under Oklahoma's voter-enacted medical cannabis law, anyone possessing up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis that can "state a medical condition" is subject to a misdemeanor fine of up to $400. The Senate version of SB 1030 would have applied even to those who did not "state a medical condition." Unfortunately, the provision was not included in the House or the conference committee version. A summary of the final bill — which became law — is available here.
The legislature has adjourned for the year.
Oklahoma medical cannabis law swiftly implemented
On June 26, 2018, Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana! Since then, the state has become the quickest in the nation to fully implement an effective medical cannabis law.
About two months later, the health department began accepting applications from patients, caregivers, and prospective medical cannabis businesses. Licensed medical marijuana patients and caregivers are allowed to possess and grow limited amounts of cannabis and to purchase cannabis from regulated businesses. (You can read our summary of SQ 788 here.) The first sales began about a month later.
Less than two years after enactment, Oklahoma’s program is already one of the largest in the nation. As of October 2019, the Medical Marijuana Authority had issued licenses to 200,000 patients and nearly 7,000 medical cannabis businesses.
Oklahoma City decriminalizes possession; ask state lawmakers to follow suit
On September 24, 2018, the Oklahoma City Council approved reducing the penalty for simple possession of marijuana to a fine of up to $400. Until the new law took effect on October 26, 2018, the maximum fine for possession was $1,200 and six months of jail time. Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty recommended the ordinance, explaining it would keep the city safer by allowing officers to stay on the streets.
Penalizing individuals with jail time and a criminal record for possessing small amounts of marijuana wastes law enforcement resources. It can also lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses. You can find more information on decriminalization here.
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