TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Medicinal marijuana is now operationally legal in Oklahoma, meaning it is being cultivated and recommended for treatments.
Some Oklahomans may be wondering how they would qualify for medicinal marijuana treatments, and the best advice is to know the law, since possession of pot for non-medical reasons is still illegal.
"Physician recommendation, proof of residency, proof of identity, digital image, $100 - those are the basic requirements," said Melissa Miller, communications manager for the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority.
Under federal law, doctors cannot "prescribe" marijuana. They will not get specific about dosages or treatments. Doctors complete a form to show they have discussed the risks of marijuana with the patients and believe the benefits outweigh any peril.
An adult patient must receive a physician's recommendation, and the applicable form is available for download from the OMMA. It includes patient information, and allows the listing of any medical conditions the doctor believes could be mitigated by marijuana use. The physician must also list information concerning certification and licensing, and sign the form.
"There are no qualifying patient conditions," Miller said. "It is actually optional to report conditions. The physician mentions a few things about how the patient might benefit from medical marijuana, and they must show a medical record that shows a relationship to the patient. The recommending physician must be board certified, and meet the state's definition of being board certified."
If the form is accepted, the patient can apply within 30 days for a medical marijuana patient license. It allows the patient to legally buy, use and cultivate medicinal marijuana in Oklahoma. The license is a photo ID card and attaches a "medical marijuana license number." It is good for two years.
The patient must apply and pay for the license through an online system at omma.ok.gov, and an active email address is required for login. The fee is $100, but those on Medicare or Medicaid are charged $20. Payment for the license must be made with credit or debit cards, or prepaid Patients must submit information that proves identity and residency.
Miller said the OMMA's biggest challenge was getting a large operation running in a short span of time, adding that there has been immense interest in medicinal marijuana.
"It is a new program, and we work hard to make it respond to people's needs and follow our obligations," Miller said. "We've been meeting our 14-day processing deadlines. We work hard to do that and be helpful as possible, even with the newness of this program."
The current laws around medical marijuana should apply well into next year, unless the Oklahoma Legislature attached an emergency declaration to a new set of regulations. Miller said the OMMA will closely monitor the 2019 session and adjust to any changes as quickly as possible.
What adjustments might be in store remain speculation.
"I really don't know what we will do," said State Rep. Matt Meredith, D-Tahlequah. "It is an issue that should already have been addressed. We had that working group all summer. I do think it will be interesting to see what happens this spring. I think we probably will vote on a bill regarding the regulation of medical marijuana. We will know more in a few weeks, and we'll even know a little more on Friday, which is the deadline to give the subject of everyone's bills."
A message left with State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton was not returned by press time.
Those interested in obtaining a medicinal marijuana license should visit omma.ok.gov for all applicable information or call the OMMA at 405-522-6662.
Some parameters to be remembered when using medicinal cannabis include:
• There are possession limits. A person can have up to 3 ounces in his personal possession and 8 ounces inside a residence. Up to 1 ounce of concentrated marijuana may be possessed, or 72 ounces of edible marijuana. Exceeding the limits can result in criminal charges of intent to distribute or trafficking.
• Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal without exception.
• Use of cannabis inside a dispensary is not allowed, so there is no sampling.
• Because of federal banking laws, few credit cards may be used to purchase medicinal marijuana. Most dispensaries will take cash only.
• Users can't give their medicinal marijuana away. Patients cannot donate or sell marijuana to anybody. Licensed patients may grow marijuana on their own residential property or, with written permission, on rented space. It cannot be grown outdoors unless the plants are surrounded by a secured 6-foot fence. If the harvest yield surpasses the legal amount allowed in a patient's possession, the marijuana must be processed or destroyed. Patients may process their own marijuana for concentrates or edibles but cannot perform extractions using butane.
• Smoking marijuana in public falls under many of the same laws as tobacco, meaning it pretty much can't be smoked in public. It also can't be smoked in front of anyone under age 18.
• Transport of marijuana or seeds from other states into Oklahoma by patients is not allowed.
• An employer cannot terminate an employee for having a marijuana license, but can certainly fire a worker who is under the influence while on the job.
• Medicinal cannabis can only be purchased at a licensed dispensary.
• Facilities such as W.W. Hastings Hospital and NeoHealth, which receive federal funding, must follow federal law, under which marijuana remains illegal.
A Tahlequah Daily Press online poll asked readers: "What has been your experience thus far with the new medical marijuana law?" Among respondents, 24 chose, "I have no reason to seek a prescription and won't be using it." Another 16 selected, "I intend to seek a prescription in the future, but haven't yet." Three chose, "I am already certified and have begun using the substance, and have already found relief." One respondent selected, "I am in the process of getting certified, and it seems fairly straightforward."
During the Dec. 1 TDP Saturday Forum on Facebook, readers were asked to relate their experiences with the medical marijuana laws.
Parker Bergman said doctors charge at least $200 to fill out the recommendation form, but Bob Frazier said a Muskogee doctor charged $75.
Michael Cummings wrote: "This is Oklahoma; until they get all the kinks worked out, I am not going to put my name in. Most of the medical benefits come from the [cannabidiol], and thankfully you can buy CBD without a $200 rubber stamp recommendation and a fee to the state. If you have a medical condition, do your research to see if the CBD or the THC is beneficial. If it's the CBD, skip getting a card unless you just want to get high."