Nearly 3 months after the infamous July 10th Board of Health meeting, some answers and transparency is beginning to reveal which actors were at work behind the scenes to illegally thwart state law regarding cannabis medicines.
The Tulsa World published a story today, that shows some of the details they finally got when a "Freedom of Information" request was finally complied with, as state law requires.
Several establishment entities were trying to pressure members of the board of Health to add additional laws which would heavily curtail most, if not all, accessibility of cannabis medicines.
The emails show some very intense efforts by the Medical Association (a trade group) and the Commissioner of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services (a state govt. agency), to make it economically unfeasible, and medically impractical for many patients to get an opportunity to implement their doctor's treatment with medical cannabis.
The plot was to initially push 3 additional rules which would create criminal law restrictions on the people of Oklahoma. But the constitution is clear that this board had no such powers.
To her great credit, Atty. Julie Ezell (lead legal council for the Dept. of Health) stridently rejected these initiatives, even though records indicate she was bribed and severely pressured by many entities. Ezell resigned just days after the July 10th meeting, having resorted to illegal tactics to attain public sympathy for herself.
After the Dept. of Health held a very open & inclusive public comment period on proposed Medical Cannabis rules (which ODMHSAS & OSMA mostly ignored) , Establishment agencies and associations produced a very high profile media blitz, intended to convince the Board of Health that they had broad support to subvert the new law by adding 3 unconstitutional provisions.
Inside sources at the time, told SoonerPolitics that the effort was heavily organized by Terri White's state agency. White stayed out of the camera lens' field of view, but her public information director, Jeff Dismukes, was in the room and working the media.
When the January legislative bills were filed, Sen. Ervin Yen was the sponsor of SB1120. That was seen as a heavy legislative effort to prohibit PTSD and other mentally ill patients from having legal access to cannabis medicines.
SoonerPolitics had a meeting in early February with Dr. Yen, concerning his bill. He told us that "This is a request bill for the Dept of Mental Health". I mentioned the many veterans with PTSD whom the Veterans Administration clinics are currently drugging with addictive tranquilizers to the point that they are debilitated zombies. Yen got up at that point and said; "We're not allowing any mental health patients any cannabis medicines. We have no clinical proof to justify it.".
Later that day I ran into Terri White at the capitol, talking to one of the Lobbyists for many private mental health contractors.
I said; "Terri, Senator Yen says you're the one who is pushing SB1120?"
"No, I'm not.", she replied.
To that I responded; "Yen just told me specifically, ' this is a request bill for the Dept. of Mental Health.'"
"Well, that's not me, that's the Dept. of Mental Health." was her parsed answer.
I then mentioned the veterans who came to the capitol that day to tell lawmakers how well Cannabis worked in their clinical trials (in Colorado).
She said she doesn't want ODMHSAS to be supplying the medicine.
I agreed, I just want them to have a legal right to try, on their own.
It's important that we see trade associations as only that. The doctors can have political efforts just as much as the oil producers & farmers do. But we have to hold state-funded agencies accountable and have real means of reforming them.
Currently there is no elected entity with oversight of the Dept. of Mental Health. 15 years ago, the legislature restructured the agency and limited the governor's authority over who runs the $650 million dollar budget. Gov. Brad Henry & Mary Fallin were strapped by law. Private associations were granted most of the authority to nominate individuals to short lists. The governor then chose from two or three on each list and that individual was given a 7 year appointment. The result is that a new governor has to govern with the last governor's appointees. Only if that governor gets a 2nd term of office does the board eventually become reflective of the current governor's policy priorities. This means that Gov. Fallin's discretionary judgment will heavily impact the next governor's success.
That board of 11 is almost completely from the OKC metro area. Tulsa has not recently had any voice in the board. They elect the State Commissioner of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services. Terry Kline was the first such Commissioner, Terri White is the second.
Terri White told me last year that Tulsa's inpatient mental health service availability is the worst in the state. Many plausible reasons exist for Tulsa's plight, but the state has only 349 mental health beds in operation by ODMHSAS. The Tulsa County Jail has over 500 men with serious mental illness continuously incarcerated. White is accountable to her board. the governor remains mostly impotent in the agency. Rep. Jon Echols has repeatedly filed legislation to make the Commissioner a direct appointment of the governor. Sen. Yen has killed that bill each year, as chairman of the senate Health Committee.