OKLAHOMA CITY--The ACLU of Oklahoma issued today a letter to Tom Bates, Interim Commissioner for the Department of Health, notifying the Department of serious concerns with the emergency rules and Constitutional violations within those rules.
The ACLU’s letter was issued on the heels of a formal letter issued by Attorney General Mike Hunter, in which the AG’s office notified the Department it has overstepped its bounds by enacting the new regulations. The ACLU joins in the concerns expressed by the Attorney General and additionally raises issues with the Constitutional violations the rules create by requiring a pregnancy test for women and the restrictions on advertising and merchandise sales.
“Though we share Attorney General Hunter’s concerns in the formal letter issued today, we believe the problem is even broader than overstepped bounds,” said Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Requiring women submit to a pregnancy test before their doctor may make a medical marijuana recommendation is discriminatory and a clear violation of the 14th Amendment.”
The ACLU notes in its letter (attached) that the regulations already take appropriate action to inform the public of the potential, yet presently unknown, risks associated with the use of medical marijuana during pregnancy or breastfeeding. If this rule stands, Oklahoma will be the only state to require a pregnancy test as a condition of receiving a medical marijuana license. Additionally, there is no requirement that women submit to pregnancy tests before obtaining a prescription for narcotic pain relievers, including opiates.
“The State simply has no legitimate interest in interfering with the relationship between a woman and her doctor in this way,” said Kiesel. “Decisions about medical care, including medical marijuana licensing, should be made on an individual basis, and should remain between a patient and her doctor.”
The ACLU also notes First Amendment free speech violations with the Board’s restrictions on advertising and logo merchandise sales.
“The First Amendment protects commercial speech,” said Kiesel. “Restricting that speech is only permissible under a very strict set of circumstances. The Department of Health has failed, in these rules, to indicate any reason a complete ban on this specific type of speech is Constitutionally permissible.”
The ACLU of Oklahoma requests the Department of Health take an opportunity to review and update the rules at their upcoming special meeting both to ensure the will of the people is not usurped and also to ensure compliance with the Constitution.
“If the Department of Health is unable or unwilling to significantly revise these rules, we’ll have no choice but to ask a federal court to do so instead,” said Kiesel.