Medical marijuana advocate voicing concerns over Oklahoma ‘Unity Bill’

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OKLAHOMA CITY - An advocate for medical marijuana is voicing his concern over a bill aimed at providing Oklahoma with a regulatory framework for the industry.

Dubbed the "unity bill," House Bill 2612 unanimously cleared a Senate committee this week and is eligible to be heard on the Senate floor on Monday.

The bill includes sections specifically related to packaging and labeling guidelines or restrictions, along with "safety-sensitive jobs." According to the legislation, no employer may refuse to hire or penalize an applicant or employee "solely on the basis of a positive test for marijuana components or metabolites."

An exception, however, would apply to positions involving "safety-sensitive job duties" such driving or operating machinery and power tools.

Shawn Jenkins, one of the founders of the 'Yes On 788' PAC, said that seemed reasonable on the surface but he has concerns.

"The devil's in the details. What is defined as a 'safety-sensitive job?'" Jenkins said. "This is not only something employees that work with things like heavy equipment or standards that conjures in the mind of people that would be safety-sensitive jobs but, also, since the language is not limited to those professions enumerated into the bill, it affects anyone who is an employee in Oklahoma."

Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, a co-author of the bill, said that was not the intention.

"I don’t think it really can be taken that way. A lot of really smart people who do HR legal work for a living came up with that language, vetted that language, and I think that language is pretty solid," McCortney said. "I think, in the end, it’s the job of the Legislature and it’s the job of the group that put this unity together to come up with the best system that we can and the language we landed on is what we believe. When looking at all other states and how everyone else does this, this is the best way to make sure people can have their medicine and we can also have safe work places."

Jenkins said he also had concerns with the bill as it relates to patients' rights.

"It authorizes any physician of the licensee, meaning the medical marijuana card holder, to have access to their patient’s OMMA records. Now, that seems pretty reasonable, right? Seems that way, but it’s not," he said. "When you consider that pain management doctors and oncologists are in fear of losing say their DEA license or their medical practice so those records would be used against to eliminate patients that might be using their legal medical cannabis card that they applied for."

McCortney said access to know what kind of medication a patient is taking is necessary.

"Part of a doctor’s role is to know what medicine their patients are on so that the other medicine that you might prescribe will not counteract. That’s what doctors do everyday," he said. "Without this bill, you have a very real possibility that people are taking tainted medication. You have a very real possibility that people are taking medication that they don’t know what’s in it, and you have a real possibility that people are driving school busses or forklifts or heavy equipment that are showing up to work high and their employers cannot do anything about that."

McCortney said the bill will likely be heard before Thursday of next week.

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