A recent lawsuit filed against the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) claims that the organization did not make its meeting agenda available to the public, which violated a state law known as the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act.
The lawsuit is led by Tulsa-based attorney Ron Durbin of Durbin Law – Viridian, who spoke at a rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City on July 30. “One of the main reasons I’m here today is, we filed a new lawsuit against the OMMA, against Director Williams, against her secretary, against a lot of the new members of the board of health and the food safety standard board,” Durbin said.
Approximately 100 people attended the rally, according to Fox 25. “We don’t want to do this; this is ridiculous that we have to continue to do this stuff, but if they keep forcing our hand, we’re going to keep doing it.”
Oklahoma Being Sued for “Sneaky” Rule-making
The lawsuit claims that new, emergency rules for the industry, which went into effect on July 1, were agreed upon without making the community properly aware.
The lawsuit states that the OMMA violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act, which requires that all state meetings (such as local boards, commissions and all other groups) must be open to the public, and must post an agenda regarding topics of discussion. According to Durbin, the OMMA violated this law.
“Ultimately, what they did after is they formed this new board in secret, held a secret meeting to approve some regulations and then sent those off to the governor as emergency regulations,” he told Fox 25. Governor Kevin Stitt received House Bill 2272 on his desk and signed it in on May 18, 2021.
Rachel Bussett of Bussett Legal Group, and Durbin’s co-counsel, accused the OMMA of being “sneaky.” “They did it in a sneaky and underhanded way. Intentionally or unintentionally, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt,” she said. “These were sent to individuals who were not attorneys, who are not normally a part of the rule-making process,s less than 24 hours before they were supposed to appear and vote on them.”
Durbin believes the issue is with the Oklahoma Department of Health, and his lawsuit requests that management of the state’s medical cannabis industry be transferred to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics instead. “Create some new, clear rules on what’s going on and run from there. But we’ve got to get it out from the department of health.”
On behalf of The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and the OMMA, a statement was provided to Fox25 in defense of its alleged violation of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act.
“OMMA continues to follow rules regarding public meetings and the opportunity for public comment. We look forward to further engaging with licensees and other community members when the opportunity for public comment becomes available in the coming months.
“The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority is committed to protecting patients and fulfilling our mission to ensure safe and responsible practices in licensing, regulating and administering the medical marijuana program. While keeping a focus on patient safety, OSDH and OMMA diligently follow legislative rules and intent.”
Durin is also behind a different lawsuit against the OMMA in regards to a 2019 law that established a seed-to-sale tracking system with Metrc. The lawsuit argues that Mertc would receive millions of dollars in service fees from Oklahoma business owners, which wasn’t approved by lawmakers, according to Tulsa World.
Oklahoma’s medical cannabis industry is three years old now, having been voted on and approved on June 26, 2018. To date, according to the Oklahoma Medical Marjiuana Authority, there are now 373,943 medical cannabis cardholders in the state. Between January and June 2021, the state has collected $43,166.199 in state and local sales taxes.