Welcome to an engaging exploration of the history of medical marijuana laws in Oklahoma. From grassroots advocacy to state question ballots, we chart the state's vibrant journey towards embracing the therapeutic potential of cannabis.
Milestones in Oklahoma's Medical Marijuana Journey
The State of Oklahoma was relatively late to the medical marijuana game, but when it did decide to step in, it made a significant impact. When Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788 in June 2018, it was a landmark moment. This state question established one of the country's most liberal medical marijuana programs, allowing any Oklahoma resident with a medical card to use medical marijuana.
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA), established under the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), was born out of this new law. The OMMA was entrusted with the task of overseeing the state's medical marijuana program, which included issuing medical cards to patients, caregivers, and business licenses to dispensaries.
Oklahoma’s Patient Protection Act and Unity Bill: Solidifying the Framework
After the landmark approval of State Question 788, Oklahoma rapidly introduced two critical pieces to its legal framework for medicinal marijuana: the Patient Protection Act and the Unity Bill. These two pieces of legislation served to refine and clarify the broad law that was passed in 2018.
The Patient Protection Act, enacted in August 2019, is aimed at safeguarding the rights of medical marijuana users, providing clear guidelines for law enforcement, and giving specific instructions on custody decisions involving medical marijuana license holders and their family members. A key feature of this Act is its requirement for the Oklahoma Department of Health (OKDOH) to provide an annual report on the state’s medical marijuana program. This requirement demonstrates a commitment to transparency and constant improvement in the administration of the program.
The Unity Bill, also known as the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act, further expanded on these guidelines in March 2019. It addressed concerns related to commercial applications and dispensary licenses. It clarified rules around food licenses for edible products, packaging and labeling requirements, and testing standards. It also expanded the role of caregivers, allowing designated individuals to aid patients with the purchase, application, and administration of medical marijuana products.
The Medical Card: Unlocking Therapeutic Relief
Acquiring a medical marijuana card in Oklahoma is a relatively straightforward process, designed with patient convenience in mind. It begins with a mental health consultation, where a certified doctor assesses a patient's medical conditions. This consultation can be done in-person or via video chat, making it accessible even for those who may have mobility issues or live in remote locations.
If the doctor determines that the patient suffers from qualifying conditions that could benefit from the use of medical marijuana, they will send an email recommendation for the patient. This recommendation, which affirms that medical marijuana could alleviate the patient's condition, is crucial for the application process.
Armed with the doctor's recommendation, the patient can then apply to the OMMA for a patient card. The state application fee is $100, but this can be reduced to $20 for applicants who can provide proof of Medicaid, Medicare, or SoonerCare enrollment.
Once the application is processed and approved, the patient is issued a medical marijuana card. This card is more than just an ID – it's a passport to therapeutic relief. It empowers patients to legally purchase medical marijuana products from licensed dispensaries across the state. Furthermore, it allows patients to cultivate a specific number of plants at their primary residence, ensuring a personal supply of therapeutic cannabis.
The Black Market: A Persistent Stumbling Block
While Oklahoma's liberal medical marijuana laws have been transformative for thousands of patients, they've also inadvertently bolstered the state's black market. With Oklahoma residents now able to grow up to six mature plants at their primary residence and own several ounces of cannabis, there's been an increased risk of legally obtained cannabis trickling down into the illegal market.
Law enforcement has identified numerous cases of medical cardholders exceeding their permitted quantities, cultivating a surplus of cannabis, and then selling the excess illegally. This black market activity creates a significant hurdle for the state's licensed dispensaries. In response, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, in conjunction with local law enforcement, has been cracking down on these illegal activities, ensuring the safety and legitimacy of Oklahoma's medical marijuana business.
Medical Marijuana and the Workplace: Striking a Balance
The enactment of the medical marijuana law in Oklahoma brought with it questions about how this could affect the workplace. With the number of medical marijuana users on the rise, employers were concerned about potential issues related to productivity, safety, and legal liabilities.
The Unity Bill and the Oklahoma Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act helped clarify these issues. Employers can't discriminate against a medical marijuana license holder simply for testing positive in drug tests. However, this law does not protect employees if they use or are under the influence during work hours or if their performance suffers as a result of their medical marijuana use. This legislation strikes a balance, acknowledging the rights of medical marijuana users while ensuring that workplace safety and productivity are not compromised.
Catering to Out-of-State Patients: Extending the Olive Branch
Interestingly, Oklahoma's medical marijuana program is not only for state residents. Recognizing the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana, the OMMA extended a provision to out-of-state patients, allowing them to enjoy Oklahoma's medical marijuana products.
Out-of-state patients with a valid medical marijuana card from their home state can apply for a temporary patient license in Oklahoma. This license, valid for 30 days, grants the same rights and privileges to out-of-state patients that Oklahoma residents enjoy, including the purchase, use, and even growing of cannabis. This innovative step, unique to Oklahoma, reflects the state's commitment to broadening access to medical marijuana for therapeutic purposes.
Pushback from Federal Law: The Elephant in the Room
Despite the strides made by Oklahoma in establishing its medical marijuana program, it operates within a paradox due to conflicting federal law. Under the United States Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, making its use, possession, and distribution illegal on a federal level.
This federal-state clash creates a complex scenario where a practice that is legal under Oklahoma state law can potentially be prosecuted under federal law. However, it's important to note that to date, individual states have been allowed to develop their own policies regarding medical cannabis use, a move seen as a nod to the states' rights doctrine. Nonetheless, the discrepancy between state and federal laws creates uncertainty, necessitating a need for federal reforms to align with the evolving state laws concerning medical marijuana.
Moving Forward with ARCannabisClinic
Our understanding of the therapeutic use of cannabis continues to grow, and so does the number of Oklahomans embracing it. ARCannabisClinic, a national, trusted medical marijuana health technology company, is at the forefront of this charge. We are committed to helping qualified patients in Oklahoma and across the country access the relief they need.
Oklahoma's journey in the medical marijuana landscape has been marked by a progressive approach, compassionate policies, and an openness to change. Despite some challenges, the state has been proactive in protecting the rights of medical marijuana patients and paving the way for future progress. The journey is far from over, but the spirit of resilience remains constant, just like the resilient Oklahomans we proudly serve at ARCannabisClinic.