Comp and Cannabis: Will SQ 788 Be Enough to Legalize Medicinal Marijuana in OK?

10.25.2017


By Dara Barney

This is the next article in WorkersCompensation.com's “Comp and Cannabis” series, as Editor Dara Barney explores medical marijuana legislation state-by-state, and what it means regarding workers' compensation.

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Oklahoma City, OK (WorkersCompensation.com) – Oklahoma State Question 788 could stir things up a bit in the state known for its many types of agricultural crops.  Also known as “The Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative,” the state question is expected to be on the ballot in November 2018.

The study calls on doctors to be able write prescriptions for a patient experiencing any ailments that could be treated by some sort of medicinal marijuana aide. It doesn’t list qualifying conditions, but there’s a method to the madness on that one, as Oklahomans for Health Co-founder Frank Grove explained to WorkersCompensation.com. He also helped author SQ 788.

Referencing people affected by rare diseases not commonly named, as they carry complicated terminology, Grove said, “We’ve (the states with qualifying conditions listed) got people falling through the cracks. People who need treatment, and can’t get it because their disease isn’t listed. It is up to the doctor. Some patients will decide to abuse this system, similar to other systems, like pain management clinics. It will happen. But my biggest concern is giving access to the people who need it.”

But what could this measure mean for workers’ compensation in Oklahoma? The answer is unclear.

“Medical marijuana and the workplace can be very complicated. It depends on the workplace, and sometimes federal law can be involved too. …In some states like Colorado, companies are able to drug test as it’s a part of the law. I’ve seen stats about corporations with drug testing having a less productive workforce, but for companies who aren’t interesting in testing, medical marijuana can be a great replacement for opiates in some circumstances,” he said. 

Scott Chance, communications representative for the OK Workers' Compensation Commission, hasn’t seen much action in the injured workers and medicinal marijuana arena… yet. “Oklahoma has not had any issues raised on medical marijuana at this point.  As a result, the Commission has not reviewed the issues related to coverage, reimbursement, etc.  We don’t have any information to share at this time, but the Commission will be reviewing these issues over the next several months to be ready if State Question 788 passes in 2018…” 

The state Attorney General’s Office was in the process of responding to WorkersCompensation.com requests for comment, but hadn’t gotten back by press time.

Rep. John Paul Jordan is backing an interim study that has been rescheduled to take place in Nov. 2017. The study will look at how SQ 788 will affect different agencies and public entities, based on presentations and questions/answer sessions. “We need to take a look at different things, including the text of the bill, what responsibilities go to which organization, deadlines, etc. Modeling after other states and their approaches works, and we also need to figure out what works for us too,” he said.

This study, which will only last for the day, is a great opportunity for voices to be heard and questions to be asked.

“I am here to help where I can, and hopefully get whatever issues people have on the table to work toward some resolutions,” he said.

The OK Dept. of Health doesn’t stand one way or another on this topic, but General Counsel Donald D. Maisch did say the department is ready to present at the study on financial stats, including startup costs and concern with some tight timeframes laid out in the text.

“The ability to amend parts of SQ 788 would exist, as it is statute and not constitution,” he said.

Besides the occasional passerby with an expletive or two while the appropriate amount of signatures was collected during the petition phase of the state question process, Grove hasn’t seen a lot of pushback. It doesn’t seem to be a matter of if the question will pass, but when. “…It is a simple and obvious revenue source, why fight it?” Grove said.   

 

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