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State pharmacy board director allegedly offered job in exchange for controversial medical marijuana rule

OKLAHOMA CITY - The head of the state pharmacy board allegedly offered a job and pay raise to a health department attorney involved in drafting medical marijuana rules, in exchange for requiring pharmacists to be in medical marijuana dispensaries, according to a news report Thursday afternoon.

The news website NonDoc obtained text messages sent between Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy Director Chelsea Church and the now-former Oklahoma State Health Department general counsel Julie Ezell. In the messages, Church appears to have offered Ezell a job and a guaranteed pay raise in exchange for including the pharmacist requirement in the emergency rules, days before the board of health met to take up the drafted regulations.

However, the rules Ezell presented to the state board of health last week didn't include the pharmacist requirement, but the board added it anyways, against Ezell's legal advice. Controversy erupted after the board approved the rules, which included the pharmacist requirement and banned the sales of smokable marijuana. Two lawsuits have since been filed and the state's attorney general said Wednesday the board overstepped its authority and called on it to convene a special meeting.

The NonDoc report is theĀ  latest chapter in the ongoing saga surrounding the implementation of medical marijuana in the state, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, its board and Ezell.

Days after the rules were approved and signed by Gov. Fallin, Ezell resigned from her post. On Tuesday she was charged in Oklahoma County with several criminal felony counts for allegedly emailing fake threats to herself from supposed medical marijuana proponents. She is currently out on $5,000 bond.

According to the messages obtained by NonDoc, Church wrote to Ezell, "You get me a pharmacist in dispensary and then come to our office. I guarantee I can do more than u (sic) have now."

That message was in response to a number of exchanges between the two women that started the evening of Saturday, July 7, with Church asking Ezell if she had changed her mind on including pharmacists in the draft emergency rules.

Ezell said she'd get back to Church. The two began to belittle the pharmacy board's assistant attorney general. To which Ezell said, "Maybe I will bail on OSDH and come work for you," to which Church replied, "Please!!!!"

At some point, the conversation switches from government issued phones to personal cell phones. Church said "If this settles down, I would honestly love to talk to You (sic) about [the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy]," saying Ezell "would b (sic) a great fit."

"U tell me what it would take for u to jump and we need to talk!!!! (sic)"

Ezell said she was "wearing out" at the health department and "not sure how much longer I will stay," but said she "may be priced out of [the pharmacy board's] budget."

Church replied, "I have a nice budget. We need to chat, I really mean it!!"

Ezell said she was "totally up for talking" but said she can't guarantee the pharmacist rule, as "my answer will be what I think we can do legally job offer or not."

Calls to Church went unreturned Thursday evening, as did calls to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.

Ezell's attorney telling News 4 Thursday evening the charges against his client are unrelated to the messages sent between the two women.

"I think those text messages show the pressure [Ezell] was under, from all sides," Blau said when reached by phone. "It was another state agency offering her a bribe to give a legal opinion in their favor and in the end, she turned it down."