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If Voters OK Medical Marijuana, Health Boss Says Another Agency Should Regulate It

Jackie Fortier
StateImpact Oklahoma
Acting Health Commissioner Preston Doerflinger, left, at a Joint Commission on Public Health meeting. Doerflinger says the Oklahoma Tax Commission or the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy might be better equipped to regulate medical marijuana.

On June 26, voters will decide if Oklahoma will become the 30th state to legalize marijuana for medical use. But regulating the new industry could prove difficult.

If State Question 788 passes, licenses will be required for each stage of marijuana cultivation, including dispensaries, commercial growers, processors, and individual medical marijuana cards.

The measure’s language says the state health department will handle all the new oversight —but with investigations into financial mismanagement and a fundamental restructuring of the agency  health officials don’t want the responsibility.

“There are certain things that the agency is charged with that might be better placed at the Tax Commission, or the State Board of Pharmacy might be a better place for this work to occur,” said Preston Doerflinger, acting commissioner of health.

The ballot language states that if medical marijuana passes in June, the health department will have to start issuing licenses in August.

“I am encouraging the governor and legislators to realize that there are problems with the way that it’s currently designed and there are going to have to be changes. This agency cannot take that on, it can’t,” he said.

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Jackie reports for StateImpact Oklahoma on a variety of topics and heads its health reporting initiative. She has many journalism awards to her name during her years of multi-media reporting in Colorado, and was part of a team recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists with a Sigma Delta Chi award for excellence in breaking news reporting in 2013. She is a former young professional fellow of the Journalism and Women's Symposium, and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Reporters without Borders, and a lifetime member of Kappa Tau Alpha, awarded for her thesis on disability and technology in news reporting. She holds a bachelor's degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing from Colorado State University and a Master of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder. When she's not reporting, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three cats.
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