An Oklahoma doctor is suing the state over medical marijuana rules he claims are blocking patient access to the drug. Dr. Scott Evans says the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority is denying his patients’ medical cannabis applications, deeming Evans’ recommendations invalid. Evans’ lawyer, Chad Moody, says the denials are hurting his client’s reputation and causing him to lose business. At the root of the problem, at least according to the OMMA, is vague wording in S.Q. 788, the state’s medical cannabis bill. But Evans maintains the state is playing semantics at the expense of patient access to medical cannabis.
Doctor Says Oklahoma Officials Are Using “Poison Pills” to Defeat Legal MMJ
In July, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788, legalizing cannabis for medical use. Despite vocal opposition, 56 percent of voters approved the measure, which places control of medical cannabis use entirely with physicians and patients. SQ 788 did not include any restrictions based on qualifying conditions. As long as a doctor recommends it, patients can obtain medical cannabis. Or at least, they should be able to.
Almost immediately, however, lawmakers and officials opposed to the measure began adding restrictions to the new program. Among them was a contentious and fiercely battled ban on smokable forms of cannabis. Others involved limiting dispensary locations and placing burdensome requirements on pharmacists.
In many respects, the Oklahoma State Medical Association spearheaded the attacks on voter-approved SQ 788. Former president of the organization Dr. Keven Taubman even chairs the leading opposition group, “SQ 788 Is Not Medical.” Opponents of 788 have repeatedly claimed the measure is a “recreational marijuana bill in disguise.” The State Health Department approved a pair of OSMA’s proposed restrictions, drawing ire from medical cannabis supporters and legal challenges. They say the state’s efforts to restrict 788 violate voters’ intent.
Dr. Scott Evans and his lawyer are currently suing the state over a different restriction, echo those sentiments. “A lot of the establishment in Oklahoma didn’t want to see 788 pass,” Moody told reporters, “and they are upset and frustrated that it did. Right now, they are throwing a temper tantrum because they lost.”
Evans says the health department has found another “poison pill” to stymie patient access and subvert the intent of 788. This time, it’s language in the medical cannabis rules about which physicians qualify to make medical cannabis recommendations.
Oklahoma Says Doctors Must Be Board Certified in a Speciality, Sidelining Many Qualified Physicians
According to Dr. Evans’ lawyer, the OMMA is citing language in the state’s medical cannabis rules it says requires doctors to obtain a board certification in a speciality in order to recommend medical cannabis. In other words, doctors with an ordinary physicians license would be unable to give a medical cannabis recommendation.
The rule the health department cites states that a physician must hold “a valid, unrestricted and existing license” and meet “the definition of ‘board certified’ under rules established by either the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure or the Oklahoma Board of Osteopathic Examiners. Moody says the osteopathic board specifically uses the word “specialist” in its definition of “board certified.” Now, the state is seizing on that language to bar general practitioners like Dr. Evans from recommending medical cannabis. And that, Evans’ lawsuit alleges, is not what voters intended when they approved 788.
The OSMA acknowledged the vagueness of the language in SQ 788. 788 states that a physician must be M.D. or D.O. with a certification by their licensing boards. So if a D.O. has a certification from the Osteopathic Board but isn’t a specialist, that opens to loophole for the state to deny the D.O.’s medical cannabis recommendations. So far, the OMMA has refused to comment on the “pending litigation.”