Oklahoma is preparing to implement new medical marijuana laws later this month. But now, a group of patients and care facilities are suing the state. Specifically, they are suing over concerns that the new rules could violate patient privacy by giving law enforcement access to patient data.
Advocates and Patients Suing Oklahoma
On August 29, Oklahoma Senate Bill 1030 is set to officially go into law. But one of the provisions in that bill has raised some serious concerns in the medical marijuana community.
Specifically, language in the bill states that the Oklahoma State Department of Health will make available “all information” on a patient’s medical marijuana card to the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, known as OLETS.
According to some lawmakers, that provision is not talking about patient data. Instead, these proponents say, it is only about data for medical marijuana businesses.
However, a group of concerned patients and cannabis organizations claim that distinction is not clear in the language of the bill. Now, as a result of this ambiguity, the group is suing the state.
According to local news source Tulsa World, the group filed a petition on Monday. In it, they claim that there is “an ambiguity” in the language about data sharing.
“Patient information is not part of what was supposed to be disclosed to OLETS and law enforcement,” attorney Ron Durbin told the news outlet. “What they intended to be disclosed was business license information.”
He continued: “What this bill does, by allowing patient information to be released, is it essentially brands every medical marijuana patient license holder with a scarlet letter in the state of Oklahoma.”
Concerns About Patient Data and Patient Privacy
In particular, many are concerned that the unclear language could open the door to unlawful invasion of privacy. Specifically, it could tell police and other law enforcement agencies know who is more likely to be buying, possessing, and consuming cannabis.
This type of situation, many in this group say, could lead to “disparate treatment” of medical marijuana patients. Take the concerns voiced by co-owner of the Tulsa Higher Care Clinic.
“I’m asking that when I get pulled over, the police don’t already know that I’m a medical marijuana patient,” Whitney Wehmeyer told the Tulsa World. “Not that I have shame for it, but there aren’t people that get tagged for using opiates.”
Given these concerns, the lawsuit asks for a few key things. These include:
- The suit is requesting that all medical marijuana patients be legally recognized as a “class” capable of litigating as a group.
- Additionally, the suit asks the state to get a legal interpretation of which licenses will be shared with law enforcement.
Cannabis in Oklahoma
Oklahoma has been relatively slow to advance its cannabis laws. However, some progress has been made in recent years.
Most notably, voters approved medical marijuana in 2018. Since then, there has been some back and forth on the specific rules of the program.
For now, patients with a doctor’s recommendation can purchase and consume medical marijuana. Interestingly, Oklahoma will see its first-ever High Times Cannabis Cup later this month.