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Oklahoma sheriff’s post about medical marijuana ignites fury

KAY COUNTY, Okla. - Devin Gagliardo has been pushing for the legalization of medical marijuana in Oklahoma for a long time. He was appalled by a recent post on the Kay County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

“If he wants to express his personal opinion, he is perfectly free to do that. Everybody is. But, the forum of the Kay County sheriff’s department Facebook page is just the wrong place,” Gagliardo said. “It’s not just that he’s I think breaking the law but he’s not even saying true things about the bill.”

In the post, Sheriff Steve Kelley said he’s reviewed both sides of the bill but “the way this bill is written it looks a lot like recreational marijuana disguised by medical marijuana law.”

He said it gives him concerns about “the loss of drug-free workplaces,” “creating a larger black market for marijuana,” “potential overdosing” and “subjecting another drug to our youth.”

“It’s kind of a overreach and abuse of power," Gagliardo said. "They need to be sticking with enforcing the laws, not trying to change them or prevent them from being changed."

“I strongly believe the people of this county would want to hear the opinion of their sheriff on the different views of upcoming state questions,” Kelly said, in part, in a statement to News 4. “I have spoken to legal counsel on this matter and they have not found any wrongdoing.”

Part of Oklahoma Statute Title 26 states: “Any official” who “directs or authorizes the expenditure of any public funds … to be used either in support of or in opposition to any measure which is being referred to a vote of the people … shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor.”

“At the very least, he needs some form of reprimand and needs to get rid of the post,” Gagliardo said.

The Kay County district attorney said the sheriff did not use any public funds in making the Facebook post. He said the sheriff did not break any laws.

Gagliardo said, if the sheriff didn’t do anything wrong, maybe our laws need to be changed, and he has filed a formal complaint with the state attorney general’s office.

This is the state statute dealing with expenditure of public funds:

§26-16-119. Expenditure of public funds.

Any official in this state who shall direct or authorize the expenditure of any public funds under his care, except as specifically authorized by law, to be used either in support of, or in opposition to, any measure which is being referred to a vote of the people by means of the initiative or referendum, or which citizens of this state are attempting to have referred to a vote of the people by the initiative or referendum, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and the office held by such party shall be adjudged vacant and shall be filled in the manner prescribed by law.

Laws 1974, c. 153, § 16-119, operative Jan. 1, 1975.

This is the full statement Kelley sent to News 4:

As the County Elected Sheriff of Kay County I strongly believe the people of this county would want to hear the opinion of there Sheriff on the different views of upcoming State Questions and or Legislation. As a County Elected official I have not violated any ethics rules as suggested on social media. I have spoken to legal counsel on this matter and they have not found any wrong doing. My view on the State Question 788, Medical marijuana, is the bill is poorly written and this is what I fear will lead to more problems for the State of Oklahoma if this where to be passed as written.

  • Does not restrict medical marijuana to certain conditions;
  • SQ788 allows cardholders the right to:
  • Carry up to 3 ounces of marijuana on their person and 8 ounces at their residence
  • Possess 6 mature plants and 6 seedling plants
  • Possess 1 ounce of concentrated marijuana
  • Possess 72 ounces of edible marijuana
  • Does not restrict the amount of marijuana a commercial grower can grow;
  • Prohibits schools, landlords, and employers from refusing enrollment/lease/employment based on someone’s medical marijuana license status;

Another concern we should have is the 7% sales tax on retail marijuana stores. With the already devastating budget and personnel cuts to the Oklahoma Department of Health, I do not know if the Health Department will have the capability to monitor this program effectivley.

I posted my concerns with this bill to allow the citizens of Kay County to see what was within the written language so they could be informed when going to the polling places in June. This is not my intent to sway anyones vote or keep from anyone voicing there opinion on this matter. As the COUNTY Elected Sheriff, I feel very strongly about letting the citizens in my county know my opinion on matters and listen to them on there point of views.