A new lawsuit alleges an Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority board did not follow public meeting laws when it adopted emergency agency rules in June.
The lawsuit filed Friday in Oklahoma County District Court alleges the Food Safety Standards Board did not follow the state’s Open Meeting Act when notifying the public of a special meeting.
Filed on behalf of two Oklahoma residents, the lawsuit says the board published an incomplete and “intentionally misleading” agenda and failed to give timely public notice of its June 16 meeting.
The Medical Marijuana Authority does not comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman Terri Watkins said in response.
To ensure government actions don’t take place behind closed doors, the Open Meeting Act outlines the steps public bodies must take to notify Oklahomans of upcoming meetings and what issues will be discussed. The law requires at least 24-hour notice of all public meetings and prevents entities from taking action on issues without first notifying the public.
The lawsuit alleges an agenda for June 16 was not publicly available 24 hours before the meeting and the agenda that materialized later was incomplete because it did not include details of amendments to the emergency rules that were up for consideration.
The Secretary of State’s office reported receiving a public notice for the meeting about 48 hours beforehand. That notice was publicly posted on its website.
The lawsuit criticizes that neither an agenda nor details of what would be discussed were included with the meeting notice. It also alleges the agenda was not posted online.
The Open Meeting Act only requires meeting notices to be posted with the secretary of state’s office and “in prominent public view” at the location of the upcoming meeting.
“The fact is that they engaged in a rulemaking process that they didn’t follow the proper processes and procedures,” said attorney Rachel Bussett. “They did it in a sneaky and underhanded way, intentionally or unintentionally.”
Bussett, who filed the lawsuit along with Tulsa attorney Ron Durbin, questioned whether emergency rules, which are temporary, were appropriate.
She suggested the agency should have gone through the permanent rulemaking process, which includes ample opportunities for public comment. The Medical Marijuana Authority will have to go through that process if it wants to keep the new rules on the books permanently.
Consistent with legislation that recently took effect, the emergency rules that were approved by the governor and took effect June 28 include changes to some medical marijuana licenses and updates to business inspections, on-site visits and inventory tracking.
The Medical Marijuana Authority, Director Kelly Williams and top officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which houses the entity that regulates cannabis, are named in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asks a judge to find that the Food Safety Standards Board violated the Open Meeting Act and prohibit the enforcement of the emergency rules as a result.
Durbin, of Tulsa, is also suing the Medical Marijuana Authority over the costs business owners could face when the state implements a seed-to-sale tracking system for marijuana.