City councils took steps this week to reverse the rules approved in April that allowed the limited use of medicinal cannabis in designated city-owned facilities.
At least two councilors came to the meeting ready to repeal the ordinance that exempts the city from smoking and steaming on the city property. An amended regulation and agenda published ahead of the public works committee meeting indicated that it would repeal the regulation authorizing the limited use of medicinal cannabis in these facilities.
However, Mayor Marlon Coleman said he had no intention of advocating a “complete repeal” of the ordinance when he moved to put the item on the agenda. He said Tuesday he only intended to “list it as a rule change” to allow limited use in a designated area of Hatbox Field and the Muskogee Civic Center.
“The concern I had received from families – especially families with children – was changing the ordinance to stop medical marijuana being used in public parks,” Coleman said. “My intention was to modify the subject and bring it into balance.”
Rules enacted earlier this year limited the use of cannabis on urban premises to medical marijuana events held at the Honor Heights Park Papilion Event Lawn, Honor Heights Amphitheater, Hatbox Field, and the south parking lot of the Muskogee Civic Center. The latter location would only be available for events that include an arena rental.
A medical marijuana event is defined as an event that is “open to the public regardless of entrance fee”, is attended by at least 50 people, and is conducted “primarily for educational purposes”. To meet this criterion, “at least 70% of the program of the event must be devoted to“ the presentation of scientific, agricultural or pharmacological research, methods, results or applications ”.
Proponents of the regulation said that providing space for licensed patients to use medicinal cannabis during these events “will improve our opportunities through tourism and economic development”. They said potential sponsors turned down Muskogee as a host site because there was no way for attendees to “get medication” on the premises.
An event for which sponsors were given permission to close part of a downtown street sparked a backlash after video images posted on social media appeared to show medical cannabis being thrown into a noisy crowd. Complaints from residents and others prompted a review of the regulation and the implementing rules.
Deputy Mayor Derrick Reed said he supported the medical cannabis industry but could not support its use on the city property. He said two downtown events “put us to the test” and “this is not something we should do – we don’t want to open the door to be called a smokelahoma”.
“We didn’t talk about keeping it at Hatbox, we talked at the Civic Center – we talked about keeping it,” Reed said of discussions that took place before the item was put on the agenda. “In the manager’s report on Friday, Mike Miller described it as one that would quit smoking on the town lot, but we got some clarification a few hours before the meeting.”
Reed said councilors were elected to be good administrators of city property. He said residents he heard from were aware of their concerns and preferred to have the ordinance repealed.
Parish councilor Ivory Vann said he intends to push for a repeal if parish councils take up the issue again on Monday. Vann, who also supports medical cannabis, said he had concerns about liability arising from allowing its use on urban property and allowing users to exit an event while it may be compromised.
“This is a little different from what we were talking about,” Vann said, citing concerns about the city’s public image after the “mess down there” on Main Street. “I thought we’d made an agreement on everything, but I’ll see where you changed the ball game for me again.”