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House Democrats want special session on Oklahoma's medical marijuana

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Democrats in the group examining medical marijuana policy have called on legislative leaders to bring the rest of the lawmakers back to Oklahoma City.

The three House Democrats on the committee said Oklahoma's medical marijuana program needs legislative action to set labeling and testing guidelines. They're pushing for the adoption of the so-called "unity bill," which is a legislative proposal drafted by various advocacy groups that supported the medical marijuana campaign.

"As Democrats, our top concern is that we proceed with a timely, safe and effective implementation of what Oklahomans voted for," said House Democratic Leader Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs. "We have a bill in front of us that was assembled by industry experts and a coalition of activist organizations, based on tested standards in successful programs, nationwide."

Miami Democrat Ben Loring, who noted he didn't support State Question 788, said he's ready to see more respect given to the people who voted for it and the industry that is putting work into launching the program.

"We are talking about our state being flooded with a Schedule 1 narcotic, with no quality controls or labeling of product contents," Loring said. "Punting this to the spring will allow at least six months of uncertainty for patients and their physicians as to what medicine they are taking. While the governor has said a special session would be premature, I believe public safety can't wait another nine months.”

Norman state Rep. Jacob Rosecrants said he's heard from voters that they want action instead of words.

The co-chair of the medical marijuana working group, Republican state Sen. Greg McCortney, fired back Thursday saying that a special session might not be necessary at all. At a meeting two weeks ago, an attorney for the Oklahoma State Health Department said testing regulations could be handled outside of a costly special session.

"And now that we have heard from national experts on testing, we intend to work with the Health Department on a proposal for testing regulations and present it soon," said McCortney, R-Ada.

He said the Democrats' stance was disappointing and frustrating.

"That is not leadership. It's political pandering," McCortney said. "Oklahomans deserve and expect better. This legislative working group is making good progress. We're doing in a few months what every other state has taken years to do."

The working group likely will spend the next two weeks hearing from employers along with experts in banking and taxes.

"After that, I think we will have gathered, in large part, all of the information we need to make that decision" about a special session, he said. "We've been working very hard, and until this very moment have been working together to come up with the best solution."

Dale Denwalt

Dale Denwalt has closely followed state policy and politics since his first internship as an Oklahoma Capitol reporter in 2006. He graduated from Northeastern State University in his hometown... Read more ›

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