Capitol Insider: More On Marijuana And State Officials Call The Ethics Commission A “Rogue Agency” | KGOU

Capitol Insider: More On Marijuana And State Officials Call The Ethics Commission A “Rogue Agency”

Jul 27, 2018

In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley discuss ongoing meetings about Oklahoma’s medical marijuana rules. They also give an update on the Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s lawsuit against Gov. Mary Fallin and other state officials ahead of its July 31 hearing in the state Supreme Court.


Dick Pryor: Shawn, the Oklahoma summer of marijuana continues with more developments in the regulation of medicinal marijuana.


Shawn Ashley: Medicinal marijuana is now legal in Oklahoma as a result of State Question 788. The problem right now is you can't obtain it, you can't sell it, you can't process it, you can't transport it, nor can you grow it commercially. On Thursday the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana authority, a subdivision of the state Department of Health, made the license applications available for all those different parts of the medical marijuana industry in Oklahoma, as well as for patients who may be using medical marijuana. Now they won't begin accepting and processing those applications until later in August, around August 25.


Pryor: The regulations, though, are very contentious, and the Board of Health meets on Wednesday to discuss the issues raised by Attorney General Mike Hunter regarding the rules.


Ashley: That's right. Hunter was originally asked about two amendments that were made. One of those prohibited smokable marijuana and the other required dispensary managers to be pharmacists. In looking at what the Board of Health had done during its July 10th meeting, what attorney general Hunter pointed out was, yes, those had overstepped the authority of the Board of Health. But he also pointed out that there were some other rules which really went beyond that state question: Restricting dispensaries from certain locations, prohibiting dispensaries from co-locating with other businesses, requiring medical marijuana to be grown, processed and dispensed in enclosed structures, and requiring a surety bond for licensing, as well as setting certain hours of operations. All these could be on the table Wednesday when the Board of Health meets to discuss the rules that they passed nearly three weeks ago.


Pryor: That's a lot to discuss. Another interesting story concerns the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. New legal filings with the Oklahoma Supreme Court accuse the Oklahoma Ethics Commission of being a rogue agency.


Ashley: That's right. We talked a couple of weeks ago that the Ethics Commission had filed a lawsuit against the legislature, Governor Mary Fallin, the director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, as well as State Treasurer Ken Miller as a result of its appropriation for the current fiscal year, for fiscal year 2019. They claim that that appropriation is unconstitutional. What the legislature, governor and other officials are saying is that the Ethics Commission is operating outside the bounds of normal state agencies, that they're picking and choosing what aspects of the state financial system they want to follow, that they've become a rogue agency in that regard.


They also point to some of the attempts at rulemaking by the Ethics Commission in recent years, the most recent group of which included a prohibition for state lawmakers to become lobbyists for at least two years after they leave the legislature, which was rejected by lawmakers.


Pryor: The Ethics Commission is concerned about the level of funding they've been receiving from the state legislature.


Ashley: That's correct. They received approximately $730,000 for the current fiscal year. But that money was taken out of their own revolving fund and given to them. What they point out is that the constitution says that they should have sufficient funds to perform their duties, which include oversight of campaigns, which we have a lot going on right now, as well as other aspects of ethical behavior and rules that apply to state employees and state elected officials. They say they need in excess of $2.3 million to meet those obligations and they're not getting it from the legislature.


The legislative leaders, in their response to the Ethics Commission lawsuit, what they say is that it is simply part of the appropriations process and the court should not get involved. This case will go before a referee on Wednesday, and the referee will make a report to the Supreme Court justices. At that point the Supreme Court justices can either decide the case, they could dismiss the case, or they could set it for oral arguments before the whole court.


Pryor: Shawn, we'll have more on both of these stories-- the Ethics Commission and the medical marijuana rules-- next time.


Ashley: Certainly.