Lawsuits filed against Governor Fallin, health department over medical marijuana rules

OKLAHOMA CITY — Two lawsuits have been filed over emergency rules for medical marijuana.

On Wednesday, Governor Mary Fallin signed the emergency rules approved by the Board of Health. One of the lawsuits against the Oklahoma State Department of Health was filed Friday in Cleveland County.

It lists eight petitioners, two of whom live in Cleveland County. They are represented by attorney Rachel Bussett with the Bussett Legal Group.

“The issue here is medical marijuana, and that’s fantastic, but the overall issue is the problem with our government in Oklahoma and their exercising of authority that they don’t have and their failure to listen to the people,” explained Bussett.

According to Bussett, there were several missteps in the agency’s rule-making process. The lawsuit alleges the Open Meetings Act was violated, because the agency did not publish proposed amendments before the Board of Health took them to a vote.

“We have over 1,000 comments I think, on State Question 788 when it was submitted. Many of issues weren’t talked about,” she said. “One of the big issues was the amount of THC content, which is something we touched on in our lawsuit. That was completely glazed over.”

Another approved amendment banned the sale of smokeable forms of medical marijuana in dispensaries. Dahn Gregg, one of the petitioners, described the amendment as “discriminatory."

“How can you tell somebody you’re suffering but everyone else around you can use it, but you can’t? That’s not right. That’s not fair,” Gregg said. “There are patients that are suffering from cancers that prohibit them from ingesting anything. They cannot hold anything down or they just cannot swallow, so smoking it is the only way they’re going to get it in their system.”

A separate lawsuit filed by the pro-cannabis group ‘Green The Vote’ also lists Governor Mary Fallin and five members of OSDH, along with the agency itself.

“It’s our position that the Oklahoma Department of Health, in coming up with their regulations, created a myriad of regulations that have no rational base in reality to call them crazy would probably not be an understatement,” said Ron Durbin, legal counsel for Green The Vote.

Durbin said one of the most obvious conflicts in the agency’s rules are the THC limits.

“They’re essentially asking the growers that are going to come into the state of Oklahoma to play God and know in advance what it is that their plant and their flower is going to end up at at the end of the process. That’s an impossibility,” Durbin said.

Earlier this week, Republican leadership announced plans to create a bipartisan working group with House and Senate members who will work with medical marijuana stakeholders.

“The Oklahoma Senate will not undo the will of voters, who spoke loudly by passing State Question 788,” said Senate Majority flood leader Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “While the Health Department and its commissioner did yeoman’s work in drafting emergency rules, the Board of Health’s adoption of last-minute amendments without public comments has undermined the public’s confidence in the system. Lawmakers have the ability to amend this law as we move forward to address any issues which may arise.”

House Democrats say they’ll support the idea of the working group, but only if a special session is called.

“If the working group comes up with a group in advance and we know what we’re going to be voting on, we can go in, get it done and get it out and get it done cheaply, so there’s not going to be a tremendous expense if we can all come to an agreement in advance,” said Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City. “The Republicans have a choice, and that choice is to stand on the side of Governor Mary Fallin or her approval of these rules and the Department of Health’s illegal rule-making process, or to stand on the side of the people, and the Democrats are standing on the side of the people.”

News 4 reached out to the Governor’s office and the Oklahoma State Department of Health for a comment Friday. We were told they are reviewing the lawsuits.

Bussett says a hearing is set for August 7.

Green the Vote petition