Co-founder of the Yes on 788 PAC, Shawn Jenkins, stands against the “Unity Bill” (HB 2612) citing several sections of the bill that explicitly violate the language of SQ 788 which was passed into law by over 57% of voters last year.
Following the Unity Bill’s passage out of a Senate committee, Senator Greg McCortney of Ada, the Senate sponsor of the Bill, was quoted by the Tulsa World newspaper as saying:
“One thing I want to make very clear is there is nothing in this bill that repeals one word of (State Question) 788," said Rules Committee Chairman Greg. McCortney, R-Ada. "The statute that came out of the vote of the people is still 100 percent intact and 100 percent the law.”
Mr. Jenkins, having read the actual text of the Bill and drawing on his knowledge as an architect of the Yes on 788 campaign, firmly disagrees with those claims, providing the following examples:
Section 8 of HB 2612 references “safety-sensitive” jobs. The language of this section creates an open door for employers to discriminate against employees who are licensed OMMA patients that test positive for marijuana, a result that can occur if a patient has consumed cannabis anytime in the past 30 days whether off the clock or not. This stands in direct opposition to Section 6, paragraph B of SQ 788 which explicitly prohibits employers from taking actions against medical marijuana license holders solely based upon the status of an employee as a medical marijuana license holder or the results of a drug test showing positive for marijuana or its components. Section 8 of HB 2612, for all intents and purposes, repeals Section 6 of SQ 788. This not only impacts employees that work with heavy equipment or hazardous material as one might expect, but, since this language is not limited to only the professions enumerated in this bill, it affects anybody who is an employee in Oklahoma.
Considering that it is possible to test positive for “marijuana” simply by using federally-legal CBD products, this section is even more troubling for current and potential patients who are employed, whether an OMMA license holder or someone who uses legally purchased CBD products. That’s a large number of Oklahomans who can and will be targeted for simply using a plant that is less toxic than a tomato plant to restore their health.
The so-called “Unity Bill” instead creates a divisive climate of fear for current and potential patients, and would stifle the industry that has sprouted up to help them. Reducing patient access and creating chilling effects is not in any way the spirit of SQ 788.
Senator McCortney says that HB 2612 does not change SQ 788 and that the Bill leaves SQ 788 “100% intact,” but Section 11, paragraph B of the Bill would limit a caregiver to serving no more than five licensed patients, effectively repealing the part of Section 1, paragraph K of SQ 788 which states that no additional criteria may be placed on a caregiver license.
Furthermore, SQ 788 does not prohibit nor even contemplate prohibiting sampling or demonstrating products at dispensaries, in-hand deliveries to patients by dispensaries or caregivers as is permitted just across the border in Missouri, or mobile dispensaries, drive-thrus, or walk-in physicians’ clinics co-located with dispensaries, all services that would be of great benefit to limited-income and limited-mobility patients. Although SQ 788 neither places nor contemplates any prohibition on these services, HB 2612 passively allows entities ranging from the State Department of Health to local zoning commissions to violate section 6(F) of SQ 788 by putting these additional prohibitions into law, none of which apply to drug stores and pharmacies regularly selling much larger quantities of potentially deadly drugs. These prohibitions are squarely aimed at limiting access to medical marijuana and raising costs on those patients most in need.
Senator McCortney says that HB 2612 does not in any way repeal any part of 788, but Section 7(C) of HB 2612 authorizes “ANY physician of the licensee” to have access to their patient’s OMMA records. Although this sounds reasonable on the surface, many physicians, especially oncologists and pain management doctors, will be seeking information about their patients not for the sake of their care, but out of a widespread and unfounded fear that allowing patients to use medical marijuana places their DEA prescribing license at risk. In short, while it certainly is reasonable for physicians to have the information they need to best care for their patients, access to patient records should be permitted solely for this purpose and not for their unrelated private business concerns. Section 7(C) thus violates SQ 788 section 1 paragraph J which states that the State Department of Health will ensure that all application records and information are sealed to protect the privacy of the medical license applicants. Section 7(C) also allows the government to indefinitely retain “all other records” of a medical marijuana card application, which effectively repeals section 1, paragraph H of SQ 788 which requires the government to keep no more than four specific items of personal information regarding an application.
Again, this adversely impacts both patients and business as the law would put a damper on the market and create fear for current and potential patients. It most certainly causes their personal privacy to be violated for no appreciable public safety benefit.
SQ 788 Section 7(A) establishes a 7% retail sales tax on medical marijuana. Because the Oklahoma Tax Commission unilaterally decided to treat the 7% sales tax in SQ 788 as an excise tax, the government is requiring dispensaries to charge not only the 7% tax, but to also charge the pre-existing state sales tax and local sales tax for a combined taxation rate of roughly 15% depending on location. As a program to help people suffering from medical disorders, this punitive taxation scheme is inappropriate. The tax rate should be no higher than the general retail sales tax rate. OTC’s heavy-handed approach is a problem that the legislators could have addressed that would have truly helped patients. Meanwhile, other states have very low taxes on medical marijuana.
The costs imposed by HB 2612 are not only a form of harassment on businesses, but as is always the case with government-imposed costs, those costs are passed down to the consumer - in this case, those who can least afford it. As seen in other states who initially adopted heavy-handed approaches out of fear and misunderstanding, this over-regulation has the effect of driving the poorest patients into the hands of the black market and diverting tax revenue and oversight away from the state.
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