Legislative Medical Marijuana Working Group Starts Setting Rules
By: Corey Perry
Oklahoma City – The Joint Legislative Medical Marijuana Working Group met yesterday to discuss the rules that will be implemented to get the medical marijuana program and up and running in the state. Co-Chair McCortney stated that the Joint Medical Mariana Working Group will hold what is typically a private committee meeting in open session and leave today knowing exactly what legislators expect to see rules wise for medical marijuana. McCortney was also clear that the committee was going to focus on implementing rules and not a bill; he stated that the committee was “here to make rules not to write a bill. Bill language is far different than rule language. Our end goal here is to create a set of rules that we will send to the State Department of Health and asked them to adopt those rules.”
The beginning of the meeting focused on “terpenes” and how other states handle testing for them, no conclusive information was available for them. Research provides that “terpenoids are terpenes that have been denatured by oxidation. There are also different names for the various structures a terpene can have. Monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and others are named after the number of isoprene units they contain. Monoterpenes contain two but there are sesquiterpenes other more complex terpenes that contain additional isoprene units. Research has suggested that when a terpene interacts with cannabinoid receptors they can assist or hinder the effects of cannabinoids. Since then, products high in terpenes have increased in popularity. More breeders, growers and extractors are working to enhance the flavor profiles of cannabis by maximizing and preserving terpene levels.” It is due to the aforementioned practice that legislators are concerned with the testing of said products. A moment of contention arose when Representative Fetgatter is questioned Co-Chair McCortney on the reasoning the committee decided to create a new set of rules versus working from the unity bill that they ’d been questioning people from for the last several weeks. Fetgatter also stated that he just received the new rules guide last week and was now having to help set rules based on the limited time he had to review the new guide. Echols has stated that the language in the unity bill regarding terpenes should be added to the language request that staff will draft up.
Laboratory testing and licensure was the biggest point of discussion during the meeting. Based on how State Department of Health rules are currently written labs in Oklahoma can receive provisional authorization to test and for two years they cannot be rated as long as they are moving towards the protocols according to Co-Chair McCortney. According to the Co-Chair there is a feeling that could be up and running and ready to test by the first harvest of marijuana in the state of Oklahoma. According to Senator Daniels the way the rules are currently written we are stopping short of full accreditation but we are trying to get the program up and running. McCortney stated that laboratory roll out being less than 24 months is an issue. The committee will make sure that the language is very clear that laboratories will have up to 24 months to operate with a provisional accreditation. Co-Chair Echols stated that there will be a 6 month delay from the adoption of these rules for labs to get up and running before the 24-month clock starts for the provisional accreditation.
According to Representatives Fetgatter and Echols, two days ago the first marijuana dispensary sale was made in the state of Oklahoma and it was a seedling plant. It was made clear that there is no guarantee that the rules that come out of the joint committee today the state Board of Health will adopt, they are not obligated to adopt these rules. MCCortney made it clear that the state board of health has all the power in this situation and agreed that anything short of a special session passing new legislation will not guarantee the state board will adopt the rules. Representative Looring suggests that the legislature collectively calls itself back into special session to mitigate the risk of not having what that working group has agreed upon from being implemented. At one point it was noted that the federal government has issued a memorandum stating that if you have a medical marijuana card in Oklahoma they can come and seize your guns; Echols stated that he will be in favor of running legislation telling law-enforcement officers in the state of Oklahoma not to enforce that.
Representative Kouplen stated that there have been calls to get the Department of Agriculture involved in order to help with some of the testings from the ground/soil level for potential heavy metals in products. According to Echols the heavy metals being tested for marijuana are to total less than 5 PPM collectively. The unity bill and food safety board heavy metal levels are agreed upon by the working group to be passed on to staff to implement those rules in final the language. It was also noted that producers will be required to have every 10 pounds of marijuana tested.