Oklahoma Board of Health Adds Pregnancy Testing to MMJ Program Regulations

Oklahoma doctors are being barred from recommending medical marijuana with first conducting a pregnancy test.

Oklahoma could become the only state in the union to require pregnancy tests for medical marijuana as doctors are being barred from recommending MMJ to women of childbearing years without first conducting a pregnancy test.

Following the passage of State Question 788 in June 2018, which legalized medical cannabis, Oklahoma’s MMJ program has undergone several setbacks promoted by extremist prohibitionists…but none as bizarre as this one.

This last-minute requirement, added by the state Board of Health has women reeling and angry.

“That’s so dumb, that’s all I can say,” said Avery Huckabee who uses CBD to treat anxiety. “It’s just the most Oklahoma thing.”

Oklahoma’s new regulation does not bother defining “childbearing years.” The World Health Organization defines childbearing years as between 15 to 49.

Oklahoma’s MMJ licensing process for men consists of doctor and patient discussing if cannabis is right for the patient. If the doctor thinks it is, the male gets a recommendation then moves to the next step of applying for a license with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

For a woman, the process goes like this: female patients of “childbearing years” are barred from being granted an MMJ recommendation without first conducting a pregnancy test. In that MMJ licenses only last two years, women will have to take, and probably pay for, pregnancy tests multiple times.

“It’s to inform the conversation between the patient and the physician,” said Buffy Heater, director of government and regulatory affairs at the Department of Health.

“The pregnancy test is simply meant to make sure that the physician and the patient are informed of potential pregnancy and have a conversation about potential effects, and then determine that best course forward,” said Heater who is managing the rollout of the MMJ program and helped write the regulations.

But Christina Juris Bennett, an assistant public health law professor at the University of Oklahoma, says the state’s pregnancy test requirement is superfluous.

“If that’s what you want, then write the rules so that you’re requiring a conversation, or an explanation of risks instead of requiring a pregnancy test,” said Bennett.

Meanwhile, are women supposed to prove to a doctor that she has gone through menopause to avoid taking a pregnancy test she knows will be negative? What about women who are not having sex with men?

“What makes medical marijuana different from opioids, which we do prescribe without a pregnancy test and that we do know there are effects on fetal development,” said Bennett. “That’s a very reasonable question that maybe the courts would have to decide on.”

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Alex Cannabis Clinic
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Neon Joint
Neon Joint

Adding extra steps to any medical treatment is a clear sign of an attempt to obstruct access - and pregnancy tests are, unfortunately, a very popular way of unfairly burdening women with unnecessary testing. Hundreds of medications are prescribed to women every day that are not safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding that do not require pregnancy testing - this is not just ridiculous, it is offensive to suggest that women need this type of monitoring for marijuana more so than any other medication. Yes, doctors should always cover the risks of taking any medication and make sure that patients are aware of those risks, but not in a manner that structurally makes it more difficult and time consuming for women to access that medication.

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