Oklahoma Lawsuit Seeks to Prevent Release of Medical Cannabis Information to Police

A new law set to take effect August 29 could expose the medical cannabis information of more that 170,000 patients to police.

When Oklahoma Senate Bill 1030 takes effect on August 29, it will introduce changes to the way the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) shares information with law enforcement agencies. And those changes, argue the plaintiffs in an Oklahoma lawsuit, will put patient health data at risk. SB 1030 requires OMMA to provide law enforcement with all of the information displayed on medical marijuana licenses. That includes patient licenses, which contain sensitive medical information, as well as business licenses. Police and other agencies would then be able to look up the license information online.

Proponents of the changes say it will make things easier for police in the event they detect cannabis during a traffic stop. Critics say the information will single out medical marijuana license holders and change how law enforcement officers treat patients during traffic stops.

New Law Puts Oklahoma Medical Cannabis Information at Risk

Senate Bill 1030 was passed back in May and is slated to take effect at the end of the month. Most of the bill concerns itself with zoning regulations, but there’s a provision regarding medical marijuana licenses.

A close look at the language of the bill reveals a problematic discrepancy. On the one hand, it sets up a “statutory obligation” for OMMA to share all medical marijuana licensing data with the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. On the other, it appears to carve out an exception for license information concerning patients. The discrepancy caught the attention of Tulsa attorney Rob Durbin, prompting him to file a lawsuit on behalf of Tulsa Higher Care Clinic Inc. and 11 registered patients.

Durbin says patient information shouldn’t be part of the data package OMMA shares with law enforcement, only business license information. “What this bill does, by allowing patient information to be released, is it essentially brands every medical marijuana patient license holder with a scarlet letter in the state of Oklahoma,” said Durbin.

Oklahoma Medical Cannabis Patients are Very Concerned About Privacy

Since voters passed State Question 788 to legalize medical cannabis, Oklahoma has licensed more than 170,000 patients. Now, those patients’ personal and health data are at risk of being disclosed en masse to law enforcement and anyone else who is able to access to the database, including agencies outside of Oklahoma. It’s a prospect that’s raising serious privacy concerns not only for patients, but for caregivers and business operators, too.

“I’m asking that when I get pulled over, the police don’t already know that I’m a medical marijuana patient,” said Whitney Wehmeyer, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and co-owner of the Tulsa Higher Care Clinic. Wehmeyer said she’s concerned about police treating patients differently due to the stigmas still surrounding cannabis use in Oklahoma.

The law does seem to treat medical cannabis patient information differently. Patient information regarding any other prescription medications isn’t shared with police. And no other state requires health agencies to share medical cannabis patient data with law enforcement.

Durbin’s lawsuit seeks to compel the Health Department and OMMA to clarify the language in the bill to protect patient license data. Last Friday, OMMA released a statement that it was working with the Department of Public Safety to address the looming patient privacy concerns.

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