Oklahoma’s GOP lawmakers want more medical pot regulations
In this Jan. 16 photo, a billboard advertising medical marijuana is pictured along the Broadway Extension near Wilshire in Oklahoma City. SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMA VIA AP
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Some GOP lawmakers are taking steps to ban billboards that advertise medical marijuana, further limit where dispensaries can be located and make Oklahoma’s medical pot program more transparent.
Those lawmakers filed bills ahead of the Feb. 3 start of the legislative session, The Oklahoman reported, even though the legislators who passed last year’s “Unity Bill” that established a legal framework for State Question 788, indicated they don’t want sweeping changes to the medical marijuana program this year.
Sen. Mark Allen introduced a measure that would ban medical marijuana from being promoted on billboards. Allen did not return the newspaper’s call seeking comment.
Chip Paul, who wrote Oklahoma’s medical marijuana petition, said billboard marketing has been discussed often among those in the medical marijuana industry.
“We all agree that there’s a line there, but what is the appropriate line is debatable,” he said.
Rep. Jim Olsen recommended legislation that would bar medical marijuana dispensaries from being situated within 1,000 feet of churches or other places of worship. It would not apply to established businesses.
Olson said his proposal stemmed from a local pastor raising concerns about how the dispensaries could potentially influence children.
“We don’t really want children to think that marijuana is the answer to their problems,” Olsen said. “Now, that’s not to dispute what many people, older people say that it has helped their pain. I wouldn’t dispute that for a minute.”
Sen. Roger Thompson, who leads the Senate Appropriations Committee, also recommended legislation aiming to establish a new medical marijuana tax fund that legislators would use to allot funds to Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Authority, which currently receives the profits directly.
“We’ll determine what it costs to run the agency, and then we’ll make the distributions,” Thompson said.
House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols said there is little chance the Legislature would pass any bills that would completely upend the state’s medical marijuana program this year.
Echols noted he and Rep. Scott Fetgatter have between four to six changes to the medical marijuana program they would like to see completed. Fetgatter is crafting a legislative proposal that would address driving under the influence of pot.
“Most reasonable people agree if you’re high, you shouldn’t drive,” he said. “But most reasonable people also believe if you smoked marijuana or used marijuana three days ago and you’re not high, but it’s still in your system, you shouldn’t get a DUI. We’re working to try to fix that.”