Several of the state's largest health associations and organizations held a press conference on Monday to discuss additional rule recommendations for medical marijuana in Oklahoma.

OKLAHOMA CITY – As the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) finalizes rules for the state’s nascent medical marijuana program, leaders from Oklahoma’s hospital, mental health, pharmacy and physician groups are raising concerns about essential areas that are still missing from the proposed regulations.

“Oklahoma health care is undergoing a seismic shift right now due to the passage of medical marijuana. Overall, we’ve been pleased with the progress the Department of Health has made in such a short time, however, there are still several key concerns that need to be addressed before the rules are finalized,” said Oklahoma State Medical Association (OSMA) President Jean Hausheer, M.D. “There is no doubt the rules made now will impact medical professionals and public health for many years to come. As such, it is essential to get this right from the beginning.”

Several of the state’s largest health associations and organizations held a press conference on Monday to discuss three additional rule recommendations that they say are imperative to ensuring the state’s medical marijuana program is safe for patients and the community. Representatives from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) Board, Oklahoma Hospital Association (OHA), Oklahoma Osteopathic Association (OOA), OSMA, Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy and the OSU Wellness and Recovery Clinic spoke at the event to outline areas of public health concern and additional recommendations for the program.

The measures proposed are:

1. Eliminating smokable cannabis as is the case in other states. Instead, dispensaries should only offer medical marijuana products that are more easily measured for doses, such as certain edibles, oils and sublingual delivery methods.

2. Requiring pharmacists to be in the dispensaries and part of the approval process.

3. Limiting the initial number of dispensaries and locations to 50, as requested by the cannabis industry.

"In this room are the medical professionals and organizations that will be responsible for implementing medical marijuana and dealing with its consequences. Their recommendations must be heard and must be implemented,” said ODMHSAS Board Chair Brian Bush. “The protection of public health is to be at the forefront of everything being done to implement these rules. The recommendations outlined here are crucial to that end. To ignore the inclusion of these needs sets our state up for terrible consequences. While I understand that the process is difficult, this must be done right.”

Health care leaders also emphasized that rules governing dispensaries should be consistent with how the Health Department already addresses other medical services by limiting the number and location of treatment beds and other medical services based on public need.

“Oklahoma should model other states that have recommended limits on the number of dispensaries based on community need and size," said Craig W. Jones, president, Oklahoma Hospital Association. "Over-saturation of dispensaries in other states has led to an increased number of hospitalizations as these dispensaries, under tight competition, engage in dangerous practices."

Other groups represented at the Monday press conference include the American Lung Association in Oklahoma, Cancer Action Network of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians, Oklahoma – American Academy of Family Physicians, Oklahoma Behavioral Health Association and the Oklahoma College of Osteopathic Physicians.