OSDH holds special meeting, amends emergency medical marijuana rules

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma State Board of Health amended medical marijuana emergency rules Wednesday, removing controversial last minute amendments that drew the ire of state officials and medical marijuana proponents.

The board voting unanimously to remove the requirement of pharmacists in dispensaries, banning smokable pot, as well as doing away with pregnancy tests for women of "childbearing age", and getting rid of THC level limits.

The special meeting was called after Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said the board overstepped its authority when it narrowly passed the emergency medical marijuana rules, along with controversial amendments, early last month.

"I think that allows the program, as voted on by the people, to proceed. Now the department has to put its head down. We have a deadline bearing down on us of August 25, and we got to bear down now and get the work done," said Interim Oklahoma State Health Department Commissioner Tom Bates.

"Is this structure today, is it perfect? No. There’s some gaps that the legislature, at some point, will have to address," Bates said. "But what it does allow is it allows the health department to go forward with the licensing framework, to get a medical marijuana program up and off the ground."

The approval of the amended rules coming on the same day as a joint legislative committee held its second round of medical marijuana meetings at the state capitol.

"The committee itself is always watching what the department of health does to understand what their regulations are going to be," said Medical Marijuana Working Group Co-Chair Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City.  "And we're kind of working in a dual track."

During the last board meeting, former state health department general counsel Julie Ezell advised the board to not approve the pharmacist requirement and ban of smokable marijuana sales. Gov. Mary Fallin approved the emergency rules the next day and lawsuits were quickly filed against the state.

Ezell, who helped draft the original emergency rules, resigned as general counsel last month after she admitted to state criminal investigators that she had emailed fake threats to herself in the days surrounding the health board meeting.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is also looking into whether the now-fired state pharmacy board director Chelsea Church offered Ezell a job and pay raise in exchange for the pharmacist requirement to be included in the emergency rules.

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