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“It is not a one-and-done effort,” Lawmakers discuss testing standards, regulations for medical marijuana

OKLAHOMA CITY – A legislative working group on medical marijuana focused heavily on testing regulations this week at their meeting.

Two out-of-state experts were invited to speak with the group on Wednesday.

Karmen Hanson is a program director with the National Conference of State Legislatures. The organization has offices in Denver, Colorado and Washington, D.C. and is considered a resource for all state legislative bodies across the country.

“We basically help state legislative bodies work better,” Hanson told News 4. “We are back-up researchers for them. For example, I study state health policy on behavioral health issues like cannabis, the opioid epidemic, cancer, tobacco, a wide range of issues.”

Without making a formal recommendation Wednesday, Hansen shared an overview of what other states do in terms of testing standards for cannabis products and what Oklahoma can consider. One of the biggest takeaways, she said, is no two states’ programs are alike.

“New York state and New Jersey did not have testing requirements from the get-go. It’s something that took them a little bit of time to implement. Other states were the same way. It’s not one of the things that’s always included in something like a ballot initiative that’s brought by the voters,” she said. "It is not a one-and-done effort. It is going to be a constant process of the Oklahoma Legislature and the Department of Health and other agencies to keep on making improvements."

The second speaker, Jeremy Applen, spoke more on the implementation of testing. Applen, CEO of Atlas gXp, said some states took years to implement testing standards.

In California, there have been reported delays for products due to backlogs in testing labs.

"I’m nervous to adopt California regulations," said Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City. "To the oldest medical marijuana market in the nation, to immediately put that on the newest - makes me a little nervous."

Group co-chair Greg McCortney asked Applen, “If this is a medical marijuana state, what do we need to be testing that maybe other states do not?”

Applen answered: “I don’t know in that context that requirements for a medical commodity would be any different than a recreational commodity.”

Chris Moe, a board member with the Oklahoma Cannabis Trade Association, said the speakers provided good information but he felt  the meeting was a “waste of time.”

“We have lawmakers who aren’t going to special session, and they should be. We don’t have proper rules and regulations for 788, and we have a wild west right now and people are getting hurt,” Moe said. “I’ve had two notices in the last eight hours from people ready to commit suicide because they’ve been cut off their pain management pills after 10 and 15 years with no notice and no wind-down time.”

Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, a member of the working group, said they have no intentions of slowing down the implementation process.

“Everything that was in the state question that the people voted on is moving forward as it was written in the state question,” he said. “If you’re having problems with a doctor or your municipalities are having issues then, yes, I would go talk to them because that’s nothing that we’re doing. That is something they’re taking upon themselves to do.”

The next meeting is at 9 a.m. next Wednesday.