OKLAHOMA CITY — Concerned about methamphetamine-tainted marijuana, an Arcadia lawmaker wants to hold an interim study at the Capitol later this year to discuss the safety of the state’s year-old medical marijuana program.
State Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia, said he’s requested the study called “Stopping ‘Reefer Madness’ from harming Oklahoma!” because some Edmond residents have been injured from the tainted marijuana products.
He said the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana program borders on full recreational legalization and wants to ensure the product is tested and safe for consumers. Moore said he’s also worried about illegal marijuana continuing to come into the state.
“Where are we on the testing of the product and the supply, and are we buying it from California and other places?” he asked. “If something like that is really hurting our people, do we have a mechanism for an emergency stop?”
Voters first approved State Question 788 — a ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana — in June 2018. The measure allowed the industry to launch last year without legislative action, but lawmakers and other officials have continued to raise concerns that the citizen-crafted ballot measure created unintended loopholes that could jeopardize public safety.
“We have been very adamant that we need these controls,” said Chip Paul, chair of Oklahomans for Health, who co-wrote the ballot initiative.
He said the state’s program rolled out “a bit aggressively” and a little bit out of control, and it is now up to regulations and enforcement to regulate it.
Lawmakers did pass legislation to implement stricter testing, labeling and enforcement authority earlier this year, but opted to wait until the end of August for it to take effect, Paul said.
He said legislators could have required that much sooner.
“I’d be supportive of more controls, and that will happen as we start to drill into this,” Paul said. “Dispensaries shouldn’t be used as a recreational dispensaries and they are, some of them. There’s definitely bad operators out there.”
Paul though welcomes Moore’s probe as long as it’s done “objectively and without an agenda.”
Bud Scott, executive director of the Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Association, said he’s not sure an interim study is necessary yet because the rulemaking process is still evolving.
Scott, who also serves on the medical marijuana Food Safety Standards Board, said he spent four hours at the state Health Department on Wednesday preparing for the first stage of rulemaking for all the mandates coming from the recent legislative session.
Those include testing, inventory management systems and revisiting some of the packaging and labeling requirements.
“This process has to unfold a bit more before we’re ready, I think, to do another study and call in a bunch of the people who are working on implementation right now,” he said. “Obviously as an industry we’re very supportive of responsible use and responsible access, prohibiting illegal use and unauthorized youth use, but to do a study on that seems a little bit premature.”
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.