Cannabis in Oklahoma is a market that the rest of the country is keeping closely in their sight, although not always in the most favorable way. In Mississippi, where Republican Gov. Tate Reeves last week signed a bill legalizing medical cannabis for patients with debilitating conditions, the Mississippi State Legislature studied Oklahoma’s cannabis-related problems before it decided how to implement its own law, said Ken Newburger, the executive director of the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association. “There are a lot of things about Oklahoma that our state Legislature has been very keen about avoiding,” Newburger said. So is cannabis legal in Oklahoma yet?
Although medical use is currently the only permitted form, the Oklahoma cannabis laws are always evolving, as well as the movement toward legalization of recreational adult use. Recently, the state House of Representatives approved 17 bills tied to medical cannabis. These bills will now be sent to the Senate. Some information in the bills ties to establishing a tiered licensing system for growers, as well as calculating annual fee based on grower size. Additional verbiage applies a moratorium on new licenses for medical business, and an updated licensing process requiring more financial and ownership information.
Further legislative measures are working to assist legal medical marijuana businesses as well as to contest illegal ones. One in particular aims to establish an independent financial and information network outside of the usual systems, utilizing distributed ledger technology, which is also known as blockchain technology. Generally speaking, this system uses decentralized networks of access points to provide simultaneous access, validation and record updating while also providing safe, cashless transactions. Many within see this as a necessary advancement while the federal government elongates legalization and SAFE.
Rep. Logan Phillips and Rep. Justin Humphrey are hopeful distributed ledger technology will be an Oklahoma cannabis industry moneymaker. “We have the federal systems looking at this because it will be the first system created,” Humphrey said. “Florida is looking at this. We are miles ahead of them, and it will put us in a great position to create a new system for the state of Oklahoma and the rest of the country… The best thing is little investment for the state, a lot of return. The potential for return is great, as much as $300 million possibly. We’re not looking at taxing more. We’re not looking at raising fees more,” he said. “We’re looking at a way to help control their industry to make sure the legal people have a means to pay money and the illegal people can’t operate.”
Meanwhile, adamant activists are endeavoring on a freshly revised initiative to put recreational legalization on the ballot. National group New Approach PAC and Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action (ORCA) are both working towards changing cannabis laws in Oklahoma. Although the courses of action are not always aligned, the focus and resources of each group indicate the urgency of the issue. As of early March 2022, more than 12,000 marijuana-related businesses are licensed by the state, and about 1 in 10 people now possess medical marijuana cards. With saturation like that, it’s no wonder people often ask is cannabis legal in Oklahoma!
This influx has led to issues in several areas. Officials with the overwhelmed Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) note they have been able to inspect only a quarter of licensed marijuana businesses so far. Although OMMA has almost doubled its staff in the past year, it is still struggling to get inspectors to all of the licensees, said Adria Berry, the agency’s executive director. “We have not been able to keep up with the demand, but we are getting to the place where we’re able to get many more people out inspecting those places on a day-to-day basis.”
Bypassing a conservative Legislature in 2018 by signatures, Oklahoma established a cost-effective avenue for new cannabis businesses. Business, cultivation or transportation licenses are $2,500 here, in comparison, for example, to neighbor Arkansas which charges $100,000. On the consumer side, medical marijuana cards cost only $120 for the application fee, and the state’s list of accepted conditions is relatively expansive. Overall, Oklahoma’s expanding cannabis market has been lucrative, generating nearly $150 million in revenue in 2021, up from nearly $128 million in 2020, according to state data.
Looking to experience this ‘wild west’ of the cannabis industry yourself? Perhaps you would like to talk about your business’s methods of handling the booming growth in the Boomer State. CannaCon is the nation’s leading business-to-business cannabis conference, and the next event is in Oklahoma City this week, March 31 and April 1, from 10 am to 5 pm both days. Stop asking is cannabis legal in Oklahoma, and start preparing for when cannabis is recreationally legal. Connect with the live scene of cannabis and CBD exhibitors from Oklahoma and around the country, plus seminars all in the OKC Convention Center. Get your tickets today!