The Legislature this year passed several bills into law that will help us better regulate the medical marijuana industry in our state.
Since voters legalized medical marijuana via a state question in 2018, we’ve seen exponential growth in this industry. Reports show more than 380,000 licensed cardholders regularly purchase more than $64 million of medical marijuana products monthly, and Oklahoma has more dispensaries and growers than any other state in the nation.
According to the OMMA, as of May 15, there were 7,724 cannabis grow operations licensed in the state, 1,489 licensed product processors and 2,286 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. When medical marijuana transporters, labs and others were added, the total number of licensed medical marijuana businesses in the state totaled 11,659. There were also 386,913 people licensed to buy and use medical marijuana products in Oklahoma.
This has come with numerous challenges. One hurdle is the illegal black-market, which stretches resources of local and state law enforcement and endangers the public. Other issues surround proper testing and regulation to ensure a safe product is sold to licensed consumers and that children are protected. Additional areas of concerns are strains on local resources such as water and utilities as well as enforcement issues such as county tax assessors not being able to access properties to properly set tax values.
The House passed numerous bills this year to address each area of concern. Here’s a look at a few that made it through the Senate and were signed into law by the governor.
First, we made the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) its own stand-alone agency, taking it from under the Oklahoma Department of Health. This allows the agency to hire its own personnel to handle administrative positions, human resources and payroll, and to better regulate licensing for marijuana growers, dispensaries and consumers, as well as – and this is important – enforce state law.
Next, we passed House Bill 3208, which establishes a two-year moratorium on the OMMA issuing business licenses for dispensaries, processors, and commercial growers beginning Aug. 1. This will give OMMA time to catch up on its licensing, inspection and investigation backlog. The moratorium does not apply to licensure renewal or applications received on or before Aug. 1, and it can be cancelled early at the OMMA director’s discretion.
Another bill signed into law will disburse funding to county sheriffs so they can devote deputies to work with the OMMA on enforcement. Several additional measures were signed into law as well addressing enforcement, product sale and other issues.
Also this week, the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system went into effect. This should ensure every product sold to a consumer is traceable back to its seed form, which is hoped to create a safer and more legitimate industry.
Of course medical marijuana is just one issue tackled during our regular legislative session. I’ll inform on other topics in future columns.
Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or (405) 557-7327.
God Bless! Marcus