In The Know: Gov. Fallin calls on Board of Health to rescind last-minute changes to medical marijuana rules

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

Gov. Mary Fallin Calls on Board of Health to Rescind Last-Minute Changes to Medical Marijuana Emergency Rules: Despite having approved two last-minute amendments along with the rest of the emergency rules for regulating medical marijuana last week, Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday that the Board of Health should rescind the two amendments after Attorney General Mike Hunter found them to be improper. Hunter said Wednesday in a letter to Interim Health Commissioner Tom Bates that the board overstepped its authority when it approved the two amendments — a ban on smokable marijuana sales and a mandate that a pharmacist be at each medical marijuana dispensary during business hours [Tulsa World]. 

Prosperity Policy: (Paper)Work Requirements: Oklahoma parents and caregivers who are unable to work enough hours every week, or who fail to meet reporting requirements, may soon lose their health coverage under a waiver proposal drafted by Oklahoma’s Medicaid agency. The proposal was released in early July and is now available for public comments. It was developed in response to an executive order from Gov. Mary Fallin and a bill passed this session by the Oklahoma Legislature. The idea is that work requirements will lead low-income parents to become more self-sufficient [David Blatt / Journal Record]. There is no evidence that taking away coverage from a person who is unable to work enough will either increase work or improve health [OKPolicy].

To Encourage Reintegration, Restore Voting Rights for People with Felonies: Oklahoma’s 2018 primary election was momentous for many reasons, one being a large increase in voter turnout. For over 60,000 voting-age Oklahomans, however, this civic opportunity was not available this past primary election. In Oklahoma, along with 17 other states, citizens who have been convicted of a felony are disenfranchised, meaning that they are stripped of their right to vote until they have served their prison sentence, parole, and probation. As other states reconsider this undemocratic and counterproductive practice, it’s time for our state to take another look at how we disenfranchise Oklahomans with felony records [OKPolicy].

Oklahoma Has a New Law Banning the Shackling of Pregnant Women. Will It Make a Difference? When Mercedes Curley was sentenced to prison in 2016 in Oklahoma for vandalizing a courthouse, she was around three-and-half months pregnant. During transport, she says she was shackled to her waistband. Later, when she was transported to a local hospital to deliver her baby, she was shackled to the bed railings. The experience, Curley said, was devastating [Rewire.News].

Doing ‘Hard Time’ Turns to a ‘Hot Time’ at an Oklahoma Prison: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections says there is an air conditioning outage at one of its prisons. The department says a chiller malfunctioned Tuesday at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center in Lexington, causing outages in several areas of the prison. Officials are using fans to circulate air in the administration and medical offices, the visiting room, mailroom and three inmate housing units [AP News].

Women in Recovery helps participants overcome addiction, avoid prison: Tara Kuhn fell deeper into her addictions after losing custody of her child. She had lived with it in some form or another since she was 14, when she became addicted to self-harm. Kuhn said she used it to cope with childhood abuse and living with an addicted mother. Now 30, Kuhn celebrated sobriety and completing Women in Recovery on Tuesday. She was among 22 women, all of whom were diverted from a path to prison, who graduated from the program. [Tulsa World]

Health Department Lawyer Charged with Three Felonies: In a whirlwind, the Oklahoma State Department of Health landed itself in scandal yet again on Tuesday. Its general counsel resigned Friday, and communications officials released her letter on Tuesday. Although her letter was vague, she had been in a public disagreement with the agency’s governing board and her reasoning seemed obvious. However, just hours later, the district attorney for Oklahoma County charged her with three felonies [Journal Record]. Medical marijuana supporters release statement after charges filed against health department’s attorney [KFOR].

Official Says Procedure Could Keep Recreational Marijuana off November Ballot: Green the Vote has collected more than 104,000 signatures on petitions to put recreational marijuana on the ballot in Oklahoma in November. That’s just about 20,000 short of the required number for a state question to be put on the ballot. Oklahoma Secretary of State James Williamson said that, even if Green the Vote gets the required number of signatures by the Aug. 8 deadline, the petitions still have to be approved by Gov. Fallin by Aug. 27. Williamson said he doesn’t believe that would happen in time for the November ballot [KOCO].

Navigating the Emerging Tax Laws for Marijuana Facilities Post SQ 788: While the movement to legalize marijuana has gained steam on a state level, the federal government hasn’t budged on the issue. As a result, marijuana is still treated as a controlled substance. This means, for example, transporting pot across state lines is illegal. Due to these issues, there are some tax issues a dispensary should consider, Oklahoma City tax attorney Travis Watkins said [NewsOK]. Changes have been made to Enid Municipal Code regarding possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia [Enid News & Eagle].

Oklahoma Accepts Federal Election Money, Forgoes Security Scan: With the primary run-offs four weeks away and midterm elections just four months away, Oklahoma election officials have accepted millions of dollars in federal election money but forewent a security scan despite being targeted by Russia during the 2016 election season. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Oklahoma was given about $5.2 million from the Help America Vote Act or HAVA. The act is meant to help improve access and security during voting [News9].

Oklahoma Teachers Running for Office Call April Walkout Turning Point, Awakening: In April, tens of thousands of educators and advocates marched and protested at the state Capitol, fighting for more money in the classroom and higher salaries. Now, they’re taking the fight for education a step further.”Unfortunately, we were met with a lot of friction and a lot of resistance once we got into those difficult conversations,” said Carri Hicks, who’s running for state Senate [KOCO].

Students Join Teachers at Durant Conference: Engage OK, an annual program focused on providing professional development and support for teachers, is getting students on board. This year, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister provided a panel for educators to get personal with Durant High School students. One of the teens, Isaiah Wright, said he’s seeking a real connection with teachers [KTEN].

Reading partners CEO, Superintendent Gist discuss disparities in Tulsa reading scores: Black Tulsa Public Schools students are more likely to get suspended than white students. Poor students are worse at reading than their counterparts who are not economically disadvantaged. Those are some of the findings contained in the city of Tulsa’s Equality Indicators report. The education portions of the report, which attempted to measure the disparities in economic, education, health, housing and justice outcomes for different groups of Tulsans, was presented Wednesday at Metropolitan Baptist Church in north Tulsa. [Tulsa World]

Council Prioritizes First Responder Pay in Sales Tax Renewal: Moore residents will be asked to renew a half-cent sales tax re-allocated to reflect public safety needs in November. Though not yet official, the Moore City Council will be asked next month to put the measure on the November ballot, as the sales tax last approved in 2014 is set to expire in April. Money raised through the half-cent sales tax is currently allocated toward road and drainage projects and public safety equipment, but council members expressed a desire to see some of that go toward public safety operations, specifically increased pay for first responders [Norman Transcript].

Box Fans to Help Cool Tulsans: With temperatures expected to be the highest of the summer this week, a donation of fans to the Tulsa Salvation Army is arriving just in time. The box fans come from Westlake ACE Hardware. The Salvation Army’s Major Mark Gilliam thanked the company for helping those in need. He says the donated fans come just in time for the dangerously hot temperatures. The Salvation Army’s supply of fans is being rapidly depleted due to the heat wave we’ve already seen in recent weeks [Public Radio Tulsa].

Tulsa Council Approves Ban on Spray Paint Sales To, Possession by Minors: Tulsa city councilors approved a ban on spray paint sales to and possession by minors in Tulsa with a couple changes. The council voted 5–2 for the ordinance, with Councilors Ben Kimbro and Vanessa Hall-Harper opposed. A provision adopted from Oklahoma City’s similar ordinance protects store clerks from prosecution if they ask for an underage paint buyer’s ID and are shown a convincing fake [Public Radio Tulsa].

New Leader of State Forestry Firefighting Effort Is Named: A new leader of the Oklahoma Forestry Services firefighting efforts was named this week. Andy James was promoted to assistant director and fire management chief. He’s been with the agency for 22 years and will lead the agency’s wildfire suppression and mitigation operations. He will also provide leadership for the division’s field operations based out of Tahlequah, Wilburton and Broken Bow [OK Energy Today].

State Stocking of Lakes and Rivers Reaches 15.5 Million Fish so Far This Year: The Oklahoma Fisheries Division reported this week it has stocked more than 15 million fish so far in 2018 into state lakes and rivers. The total is 15.5 million according to Cliff Sager, senior Fisheries Biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The stocking includes channel catfish, hybrid striped bass, rainbow and brown trout, walleye, saugeye, striped bass and hybrid sunfish [OK Energy Today].

Quote of the Day

“My meeting the women, hearing their stories about how painful it is, how degrading it is, how they would have a male guard in the room while they are exposed—I just think these women are entitled to some decency and some privacy while they’re delivering a child, and also for the safety of the baby the doctor needs to be able to have these women push without being chained to anything and having these obstructions.”

-Rep. Regina Goodwin, who sponsored a law that was passed this year to ban the practice of shackling pregnant women in labor while in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections [Rewire]

Number of the Day


Share of Oklahoma students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch in the 2016-17 school year.

[Hunger Free Oklahoma]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicaid Work Requirements: Inside the Decision Overturning Kentucky Health’s Approval: Extensive commentary in the record, also cited by the judge, discussed the likely effects of the demonstration on coverage as a result of restricted standards and “clerical and tracking errors and delays.” Yet, “the record contains a rather stunning lack of discussion about the effect of Kentucky HEALTH on health coverage,” Judge Boasberg wrote. “For starters, the Secretary never once mentions the estimated 95,000 people who would lose coverage, which gives the Court little reason to think that he seriously grappled with the bottom line.” Instead, the Secretary simply noted concerns, pointing in response to certain exemptions for designated categories of people such as those who have disabilities or are medically frail, and to “on ramps allowing those who lose coverage to regain it” [Health Affairs].

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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