Saturday, March 25, 2023

House, Senate pass multiple bills to reform and tighten marijuana laws

This past week was a busy one in the Legislature as it relates to approving legislation addressing marijuana reforms. Since the recreational marijuana state question went down in flames, legislators have made it clear that they interpret the results as voters indicating that medical program is in need of reining in.

I've bundled several press releases on related legislation into this post. Read on down to get the following:

  • Senate approves bill (SB 808) to allow OMMA director to shut down marijuana operations causing environmental damage
  • Attorney General Drummond lauds passage of bills (HB 2095, SBs 806 and 913) targeting illegal marijuana grow operations
  • Municipalities to gain greater control over marijuana business zoning under bill (SB 801) passed by Senate
  • Senate passes marijuana reforms to better protect youth and patients (SBs 437, 440, 439, 264, 645, 813)

Senate approves bill to allow OMMA director to shut down marijuana operations causing environmental damage

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 21st) – The full Senate approved legislation Monday to address environmental concerns related to marijuana grows. Sen. Joe Newhouse, R- Tulsa, is the author of Senate Bill 808, which authorizes the executive director of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to order licensees to cease and desist operations if the director finds that an environmental emergency exists.

“Oklahomans are fed up with the bad actors in the marijuana industry, many of whom are here illegally and flaunting our laws, and damaging our environment,” Newhouse said. “Through intentional neglect and refusal to clean up contaminants, run-off, and even human waste, some grows have demonstrated a total lack of stewardship, and they need to be stopped.”

SB 808 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, is the principal House author.

“We’re doing everything we can in the Legislature this session to reform this industry. We must take it a step further and crack down on illegal operations that are polluting our environment. SB 808 will allow these grows to be shut down quickly and stop them from doing further damage. I am confident that Director Berry and OMMA are doing everything they can to protect our state, our citizens, and our resources. This measure will further their ability to stop this environmental abuse,” Newhouse said.

Drummond lauds passage of bills targeting illegal marijuana grow operations

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 21, 2023) – Attorney General Gentner Drummond praised state legislators today for approving a trio of measures aimed at addressing the rise of illegal marijuana grow operations in Oklahoma. The bills have passed their legislative chamber of origin and are now headed for the opposite chamber.

“Oklahoma’s illegal marijuana grow operations pose a serious threat to public safety, particularly in rural communities invaded by organized criminals from China and Mexico,” Drummond said. “As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I am committed to working arm-in-arm with Oklahoma’s law enforcement agencies to deliver justice and restore peaceful order.”

The state has witnessed an explosion of marijuana grow operations in the aftermath of Oklahoma’s 2018 legalization of medical marijuana. While many marijuana grow businesses abide by the law, medical marijuana has been a Trojan horse for organized criminals whose illicit activities also include human trafficking, sex trafficking and distribution of deadly drugs like fentanyl. The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control estimates that nearly half of the state’s 6,299 marijuana grow operations are illegal.

The Attorney General noted that a number of other pending bills were drafted to assist law enforcement in this area.

“I am thankful the Legislature is working on many pieces of legislation to support law enforcement and protect public safety,” Drummond said.

The Attorney General pointed to the following bills as critical:

House Bill 2095 by Rep. Jon Echols and Sen. Lonnie Paxton
Gives the Attorney General investigative and enforcement authority over medical marijuana laws to support the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority and allows all enforcement agencies to work together; allows the Attorney General to conduct unannounced on-site inspections; upon reasonable suspicion, the Attorney General may subpoena documents to identify any ownership interest in the business; and extends the moratorium on grow licenses until Aug. 1, 2026.

Senate Bill 806 by Sen. Brent Howard and Rep. Jon Echols
Requires documented proof of land ownership of a licensed marijuana grow operation; requires an application to transfer a business license to include the same information required of new licensees; prohibits transfers when a licensee is under investigation; limits transfers to once per year; and prohibits multiple business licenses within the same category to be registered under one address or physical location. 

Senate Bill 913 by Sen. Darcy Jech and Rep. Anthony Moore
Requires all marijuana grow businesses to hold a $50,000 bond that may be recalled if the property has been abandoned; the license has been revoked; or in response to a violation of law, regulation, or ordinance necessitating remedial action. The bond will be used to address any necessary restoration of the property, including removing equipment, destruction of waste, remediation of environmental hazards, prohibiting public access, addressing improper buildings, or determining the final disposition of any seized property.

“I am especially grateful for the House and Senate leadership as well as the individual legislators who have stepped up on behalf of public safety by authoring and voting for this legislation,” Drummond said.

Municipalities to gain greater control over marijuana business zoning under bill passed by Senate

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 22nd) – Oklahoma’s cities and towns would have greater control over what marijuana businesses are allowed within their municipal limits thanks to legislation approved Wednesday in the Senate. Senate Bill 801, by Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, would allow municipalities to modify their standard planning and zoning procedures to determine or forbid certain zones or districts for the operation of new marijuana-licensed premises, medical marijuana businesses, or any other premises where marijuana or its by-products are cultivated, processed, stored, or manufactured starting Nov. 1, 2023.

“This measure will give back local control to municipalities. After State Question 788 passed, there was language that kind of muddied the waters as to what municipalities could or couldn’t do,” Coleman explained. “Senate Bill 801 clearly states that a city may zone for grow operations or dispensaries within their city limits as authorized by their city council. This grandfathers in any existing businesses but will permit communities in the future to zone for grows and dispensaries, if they choose to do so.”

SB 801 states that any marijuana business licensed prior to Nov. 1, 2023, will be able to continue operation until they are no longer licensed by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority.

"While this industry was widely approved by voters in 2018, we know there have been unintended consequences. Municipalities have realized there are issues that can best be addressed through zoning of these businesses,” Coleman said. “A fire in downtown Tonkawa in January that led to nearby businesses and residents having to evacuate is just one of many examples of issues municipalities must consider. Zoning will allow them to choose areas that are suitable and safe for these types of businesses and the rest of the community.”

The bill will next go to the House where Rep. T.J. Marti, R-Broken Arrow, is the principal House author.

Senate passes marijuana reforms to better protect youth and patients

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 24th) – The Senate continued their efforts Thursday to improve public safety within the medical marijuana industry. Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, said the bills focus on youth access, medical education, product potency, recalls, and other important issues requested by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA).

“Medical marijuana was overwhelmingly supported by Oklahoma voters in 2018 but unfortunately numerous safety issues have arisen that must be addressed to ensure these products are prescribed and accessible only for those with true medical needs and conditions,” Garvin said. “These bills will require continuing education for doctors in order to prescribe these products, create guardrails to protect youth, limit dangerous THC levels, and provide additional tools for OMMA to stop illegal activity. These reforms will help better protect legitimate patients and businesses.”

The approved bills included –

  • SB 437 – directs the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to create a registry that will be published beginning Jan. 1, 2025, of recommending physicians in compliance with the agency’s initial and continuing medical education requirements. All medical marijuana business employees will also be required to complete these education requirements.
  • SB 440 – directs OMMA to create rules limiting the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) potency of medical marijuana and related products sold in dispensaries to no more than 1,000 mg of delta-9 THC per package for edible products; 5 mg of delta-8 THC or any other THC isomer or analogue that occurs naturally in cannabis per package for edibles; or an action level of 1.0 parts per million of any THC isomer, THC analogue, or any other cannabinoid that does not occur naturally in cannabis per package of edibles. The director may impose further THC limits for edibles for patients under 18 and will limit minors’ access to THC vape products.
  • SB 439 – deals with minor patients under the age of 18. It directs OMMA to issue a list of qualifying medical conditions for minors to obtain a medical marijuana license. Physicians will be required to conduct in-person exams of all minor license applicants unless the patient is certified as home-bound. It also provides that the two recommending physicians required to prescribe medical marijuana for minors may not be located at the same physical address. Before prescribing medical marijuana, at least one of the doctors must attest that the minor has been under his or her care or referred to by a physician who has cared for the applicant for at least one year, or not less than five years if the patient has only been seen through telemedicine.
  • SB 264 – authorizes OMMA to use secret shoppers to find businesses not complying with the state’s medical marijuana laws and rules.
  • SB 645 – requires that any medical marijuana flower, trim, shake, kief, medical marijuana product, or other flower-based product not defined as a concentrate, sold by licensed medical marijuana processors and commercial growers to licensed dispensaries be in pre-packaged form weighing at least half of a gram and no more than three ounces. Medical marijuana flowers may be packaged in nonopaque materials.
  • SB 813 – authorizes the OMMA to operate a quality assurance lab to conduct compliance testing of medical marijuana businesses.

The bills now move to the House for further consideration. Rep. T.J. Marti, R-Broken Arrow, is the principal House author for them.


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