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Health Department unveils new proposed marijuana rules

Oklahoma City — The Oklahoma State Department of Health unveiled new draft medical marijuana rules Friday which would get rid of many of the most controversial measures its board passed two weeks ago.

The Board of Health will meet Wednesday to discuss legal objections the attorney general's office raised to the rules it passed on July 10. The board's agenda hasn't been released, so it isn't clear if members will vote on the proposed rules then.

The new draft eliminates two last-minute amendments the board added at its last meeting over the objections of its top lawyer. The amendments banned the sale of smokable marijuana products and required dispensaries to hire pharmacists. Two lawsuits challenged the rules, with one claiming the board had violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act with secret discussions. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater hasn't said whether he intends to investigate the claims.

Tom Bates, the Health Department's interim commissioner, had asked Attorney General Mike Hunter for advice about defending the regulations from lawsuits. Hunter's office issued a letter suggesting the board had overstepped its authority with the two amendments and several other rules.

The new draft rules allow the sale of smokable forms of marijuana, but still forbid consuming it in places where cigarette smoking is forbidden, or in the presence of minors.

The new rules also would repeal the limit on tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. More than half of the 1,034 comments on the proposed rules had called for raising or eliminating the 12 percent limit on THC content in medical marijuana products. Some patients said the limit was too low to address their needs, but some doctors said it could lower their risk of addiction. Hunter included the THC limit on his list of rules the board likely didn't have the authority to make.

The draft also somewhat loosened restrictions on the relationship between patients and physicians prescribing medical marijuana. A doctor recommending medical marijuana to a patient must have a “bona fide” relationship with that patient, but isn't required to see the patient annually or have ongoing responsibility for the patient's care.

Physicians would still have to ask female patients of reproductive age if they were pregnant or planning to get pregnant and to discuss risks from marijuana to the baby, but patients wouldn't have to take a pregnancy test.

Patients younger than 18 would still have to see two doctors, but both wouldn't have to specialize in pediatrics, and they could work in the same practice. The new rules leave in place a ban on minors smoking or vaporizing medical marijuana.

The rules still forbid products designed to be attractive to children, but removed limits on specific items, such as lollipops and gummy bears containing THC.

Other changes included would:

• Remove limits on the hours dispensaries can operate

• Make it optional for recommending physicians to register with the Health Department and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs

• Limit parents registering as a minor's caregivers to cases where the minor is homebound

• Eliminate the rule that would revoke a patient's license if the doctor who recommended it withdrew his or her recommendation

• Require patients to notify the Health Department if their contact information changes

• Get rid of punishments for patients who fail to report violations of medical marijuana laws

• Allow the Health Department to inspect and audit the books of marijuana businesses

• Set the minimum age for marijuana business employees at 18 instead of 21

• Lift the requirement that marijuana businesses purchase surety bonds

• Allow the Health Department to revoke licenses if marijuana businesses don't file monthly reports

• Set an Aug. 27 deadline for food safety standards for edible marijuana products

• Remove the prohibition on dispensaries sharing a building with other types of businesses, or selling non-marijuana products

To view the full rules, visit

Meg Wingerter

Meg Wingerter has covered health at The Oklahoman since July 2017. Previously, she lived in Topeka, Kansas, and worked at Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal, where she earned awards for business coverage. She graduated from... Read more ›