State health department, bureau of narcotics, tax commission sued over medical marijuana fees, taxes

OKLAHOMA CITY - A civil suit filed in Oklahoma County Friday claims state agencies are overstepping state statutes regulating medical marijuana, which was approved by voters this past summer.

The class action suit brought by a Tulsa-area grow operation and a Weatherford woman, accuses the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Bureau of Narcotics and the Tax Commission of unlawfully taking medical cannabis businesses and patients money.

"We're finding out more and more that there was a concerted effort by other state agencies to exert influence and control in this industry to try to kill it," said attorney Ron Durbin during a press conference Friday afternoon announcing the suit.

"Despite the clear and expressed language in 788, the (Oklahoma Department of Health) took it upon themselves to require additional licensing by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs."

The suit claims the additional registration fee of $300-500 to for cannabis growers, processors and dispensaries to the OBN, on top of the $2,500 license cost in state statutes, are not required by law.

"It’s causing (sic) us with our bottom lines. It’s adjusting it and adjusting it. We’re having to pay for this, and to pay for this," said Nikki Lerch, who is with Caulfield Holdings Botanicals, a plaintiff in the suit. "(State Question) 788 WAS laid out perfectly and it's pure, and that's what the voters wanted."

"When all of these fees add up, it may just crush some of the small businesses."

Durbin said the amount of money the OBN has collected on the fees totals nearly $1 million. The suit also claims the Oklahoma Tax Commission is over-taxing medical marijuana patients, effectively doubling the tax allowed by 788.

"In Oklahoma, we don't charge sales taxes on prescription medication," said Durbin. "And while 788 allows for a 7 percent tax, it doesn't' allow for the double charging of tax in excess of 15 percent."

When reached by phone Friday afternoon, officials with the Department of Health, Bureau of Narcotics, Tax Commission and Attorney General Mike Hunter's office declined to comment, citing the agencies have not yet received a copy of the suit.