The people of Oklahoma spoke loudly Tuesday night to say they want medical marijuana, and at least one leader of the Legislature says the body plans to listen.
“I don’t think anyone in the Legislature or the governor’s office but especially the Senate wants to go against the will of the people,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Treat (R-OKC) said during a conference call this afternoon to discuss State Question 788’s implementation. “Many people in our caucus and many people around the state support medical marijuana, and we have no intention and no desire to unwind the will of the people. But we want to make sure that the will of the people is done, and I think Oklahomans want to make sure it is done successfully but also safely.”
Gov. Mary Fallin had said before the election that she would likely call the Legislature in for its third special session in 12 months if SQ 788 passed.
Tuesday evening, Fallin released a statement on the possibility, though it left her intentions unclear:
I respect the will of the voters in any question placed before them to determine the direction of our state. It is our responsibility as state leaders to look out for the health and safety of Oklahoma citizens. As I mentioned in previous public comments, I believe, as well as many Oklahomans, this new law is written so loosely that it opens the door for basically recreational marijuana. I will be discussing with legislative leaders and state agencies our options going forward on how best to proceed with adding a medical and proper regulatory framework to make sure marijuana use is truly for valid medical illnesses.
Treat said he did not know what decision Fallin would make concerning a potential special session. He said many leaders were considering whether a proper and functional regulatory framework could be done by the rule-making process of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. As written, SQ 788 requires implementation within 30 days.
If Fallin feels that option is unworkable under the current language, she would either have to call a special session or let the Legislature wait until regular session in February 2019.
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“I think that the people who were wanting to come back in were wanting to come in for the sole purpose of delaying implementation to make sure it was done correctly,” Treat said. “There wasn’t a consensus on, ‘Hey, we need to have all these other changes to it at this time.'”
But New Health Solutions Oklahoma, the burgeoning medical cannabis trade association led by Bud Scott, called for a special session in a press release Tuesday night.
“The will of the people is clear: they want Oklahomans to have access to this medical product,” Scott said in the release. “For that to happen, we need an orderly and fairly regulated marketplace with responsible rules and regulations consistent with the spirit of SQ 788. The medical cannabis industry is ready to work together with lawmakers, regulatory agencies, and the medical community at-large to develop those rules and regulations in a timely manner.”
Treat is set to become Senate president pro tempore for the 2019 legislative session, a position still currently held by Mike Schulz (R-Altus) who is term limited.
“The individuals who made the petition did make it statutory, so as time goes on — just like any other area of statutes — we can adjust as necessary as we see issues that need to be perfected as we move forward,” Treat said.
‘Job of the Legislature to effectuate that will’
More than 880,000 Oklahomans cast votes Tuesday, a turnout heavily driven by the medical marijuana question. In the end, it passed 506,782 to 384,872. That translated to 56.8 percent support.
“When the people tell us they want 788, it is the job of the Legislature to effectuate that will,” House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-OKC) said on KOKC radio Tuesday evening.
Wednesday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health tweeted out information about the new Medical Marijuana Authority:
Now that SQ 788 has passed, information is available by calling (405) 271-2266 or online at https://t.co/DMeLmynoJG. pic.twitter.com/b2ZJuIQcYf
— OK Dept of Health (@HealthyOklahoma) June 27, 2018