Pot decision delayed

Judge wants more info before ruling on Yukon’s medical marijuana ordinance

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District Judge Paul Hesse

By Alyssa Sperrazza
Staff Writer

EL RENO – The controversy about Yukon’s medical marijuana ordinance will continue next month after Canadian County District Judge Paul Hesse requested more information from attorneys challenging the city law.

The plaintiffs in the case argue the city’s ordinance infringes on patient and business owners’ rights with overly restrictive requirements and targeted harassment for license holders. Hesse held a hearing Thursday to rule if an injunction should be granted against the city, pausing all restrictions put in place by the ordinance.

Instead, the two sides will argue the case again in front of Hesse 1:30 p.m., March 25.

Hesse asked attorneys from the city and the plaintiffs to provide more detailed answers to questions he asked of them. In addition, he wants more information based on answers given by witnesses.

Attorney Rachel Bussett, arguing on behalf of plaintiff Charles Edward Bishop III, said the judge’s decision to delay his ruling was frustrating and encouraging at the same time.

“I think it indicates that the judge has seen that there are problems and that these ordinances are really too overly broad,” Bussett said.

Bussett brought forward two witnesses in the case against Yukon including Bishop and Jason Hodge. Hodge, a Yukon resident, obtained a patient license after the passage of State Question 788 and said he is seeking to obtain a growers license to begin selling genetically altered medical marijuana to treat specific illnesses. He said he is unable to do so under the current ordinance.

Hodge said Yukon has “shrunk the scope of where businesses can operate,” due to their “overly restrictive zoning” and has opted not to grow plants within his own home due to safety concerns. Hodge claimed police have been monitoring his property more than they used to prior to obtaining his patient license based on footage from his personal security camera.

Yukon Police Chief John Corn said these claims are difficult to confirm without the footage in front of him.

“I don’t have information related to him or his address that he gave in court,” Corn said.

“It’s extremely difficult for us to patrol all the residential streets all the time… but in his specific incidences where he says he believes there was more patrol, I don’t have any information that’s the case.”

Hodge mentioned police inspection was also a concern but Corn said that is not within law enforcement jurisdiction.

“We actually do not have, as the police department, significant roles in the ordinance’s languages,” Corn said. “The inspections that are mentioned in the process that’s in the ordinance was to be carried about by our code enforcement office, not law enforcement.”

Yukon’s attorney did argue the timing of Hodge’s lawsuit seemed suspicious, saying Mr. Hodge “set up his business after this lawsuit was filed… [setting] up an LLC a couple days prior to when the attorneys filed a motion.”

Hodge assured the attorney that his business was not created for the purpose of this lawsuit, but did so as soon as SQ 788 was approved.

Bishop also testified about another related issue pertaining to the Oklahoma Meetings Act. Bishop claimed he and other Yukon residents were misled and city leaders violated the open meetings act by not appropriately promoting a workshop meeting prior to the city council meeting. During the workshop, City Attorney Gary Miller told the council during the workshop about some of the drawbacks the proposed medical marijuana ordinance might have if approved.

Discussion of the proposed medical marijuana ordinance was not listed on the workshop agenda.

Attorneys for the city pointed out workshops are held prior to every city council meeting, seemingly surprised that it was an issue. Bussett said the city should have addressed it further since the open meetings act violations were part of the request for an injunction.

“What I thought was interesting is that [another] reporter pointed out to council that we were, in fact, correct,” Bussett said, “that the councilman and or the individual on behalf of the council did tell individuals that medical marijuana was not going to be discussed and encouraged them to leave and it was then turned around and discussed. Counsel did not address that and I think he really should have brought that up to the court and pointed it out.”