OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An attorney for medical marijuana businesses brings the fight to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority over new emergency shutdowns.
“Imagine if they came into your business with 10,000 products and three of them or ten of them somehow didn’t have a barcode on it. And they said here you go you are emergency shut down today close up and send everyone home. You can no longer operate,” said Ronald Durbin, an attorney out of Tulsa.
He showed up to the OMMA building for a hearing to challenge a new emergency shutdown practice.
Businesses claim they are receiving notice to shut down their operations from OMMA over minor infractions, like not having tags on certain products.
Durbin walked into the meeting to thunderous applause.
Not your typical suit-and-tie attorney, he wore a striped polo, the front tucked into his jeans with a Gucci belt, and all red Air Force Ones on his feet.
Decorum was unusual too.
He publicly challenged the presiding judge, asking several times about the number of cases he has tried.
Cameras were not allowed to roll during the hearing but could be accessed during recess and when it was over.
When it ended, Durbin and his cadre of medical marijuana business owners took over the hearing room.
At one point, Oklahoma State Troopers were brought in as a show of force.
The group eventually made its way outside and rested around the steps as Durbin preached to the crowd.
Durbin said around 100 people have reached out for help about being shutdown for “minor violations.”
“We’ve always passed our inspections, we’ve never even had a written warning,” said Jason Elsasser, a marijuana manufacturing owner.
Elsasser said his business was shutdown in April after the OMMA came in and found some plants without their proper tags.
“They came in and did an inspection with no notice and stayed there for seven hours and you can tell they were on a mission they had to find something,” said Elsasser.
The owner said tags must be removed for one of the last steps in the manufacturing process, but tags are reinstalled once complete.
Durbin was notified of Elsasser’s situation and went to court in Ottawa County.
Earlier this week, a judge granted an injunction and allowed for the business to start back up.
“We have people that have mortgages and car payments and families and I felt like I was in the twilight zone,” said Elsasser, who employs 65 people.
Durbin became emotional towards the end of his speech, saying he always knew he was meant for something bigger than himself.
The attorney said he wants to crack down on black market sales of marijuana, but is ready to fight for more entrepreneurs like Elsasser.
“Go after them, I absolutely agree there is a public health and safety emergency in the state of Oklahoma related to cannabis but they picked a fight against the innocent,” said Durbin.
The OMMA issued a statement on Thursday regarding recent emergency actions. That statement says in part:
“The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) is committed to promoting public health and safety through proper medical cannabis practices by patients and businesses. Marijuana is only legal within the framework set by state law and regulations.
“OMMA has recently taken action against businesses with grievous violations such as thousands of marijuana plants being unreported, pounds of untested and untraceable marijuana being presented for sale, etc. These are not simple bookkeeping errors.
“The narrative that OMMA is shutting down businesses for minor violations is simply untrue and is being used to unnecessarily spark fear among businesses acting within the law. There are thousands of businesses operating within the law to provide patients access to medical marijuana. Out of 12,653 licenses, approximately ½ of 1% have been issued emergency orders due to non-compliance.
“As with any agency that regulates consumable products, OMMA has the responsibility and duty to further product safety and ensure that every step of the process from production to consumption is done in accordance with the law.”Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority