Oklahoma Governor Kevin State said last week he would seek changes to the state’s medical marijuana program, which leads the nation in the number of dispensaries among all states with regulated cannabis sales. Stitt made his comments after a ballot measure to legalize adult use of marijuana in Oklahoma failed, which was rejected by 61% of voters in a March 7 special election.
Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana with state passage Question 788 in 2018, making it the 30th state in the country to legalize the medical use of cannabis. With low barriers to entry including a cannabis business license fee of just $2,500, a fraction of the amount charged by most states, and no limit on the number of cannabis dispensaries, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry has quickly grown to become one of the most powerful in the nation. The ballot measure also had few restrictions for qualifying for a medical marijuana card, and the number of registered patients is now equal to nearly 10% of the state’s population. As of November 2022, Oklahoma had more than 2,300 medical marijuana dispensaries, a number that exceeds the number of gas stations in the state, According to a report from the local media.
Backlash from medical marijuana
But many Oklahoma residents believe that the rapid pace of growth of the medical marijuana industry has outpaced the state’s ability to regulate it. In addition, the lack of oversight has led to the development of a lucrative illicit industry of cannabis growers who ship their crops to jurisdictions that have not yet ended cannabis prohibition.
“There is enough marijuana, I am told, grown in Oklahoma to supply the entire United States. This is not what it was supposed to be,” he said. State said last week. “This was supposed to be about medical use in the state of Oklahoma, and it got out of hand.”
State lawmakers responded last year by passing a bill that placed a two-year ban on issuing new licenses to medical marijuana growers, processors, and retailers. The state has also instituted new regulations, including a Seed-for-Sale Tracking System requirement to monitor the production and movement of cannabis across the state. Other new rules include a requirement for cannabis producers to submit water and electricity usage data to government regulators in an effort to identify companies that produce more cannabis than they report.
State says the backlash against Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry was largely responsible for the failure of State Question 820, an initiative that would legalize adult use of cannabis. After being denied a place on the ballot for the general election in November due to procedural delays and a state Supreme Court ruling, State announced in October that a special election to report state Question 820 would be held on March 7.
“As I was traveling to the state, I knew Oklahomans didn’t want that,” State said. “They are tired of having a dispensary on every corner.”
State Question 820 has been opposed by law enforcement organizations and many Republican leaders in the state, including Stitt. Representatives of the state’s agricultural industry and many residents of the state’s rural areas have also expressed their opposition to a ballot measure to legalize adult use of cannabis in Oklahoma.
“We’ve seen the negative impact of the rapid growth of the unregulated medical marijuana industry on Oklahoma agriculture and rural communities,” said Scott Blubo, president of American Farmers and Ranchers. “We’ve seen agricultural challenges rise, and we’ve seen strain on rural electricity and our rural water utilities.”
Voters reject State Question 820
State Question 820 failed at the polls in last week’s special election, with 61% of voters voting against the measure. The governor attributed the loss to Oklahoma’s existing medical marijuana industry.
“I think the Oklahomans had a lot of fatigue around marijuana,” State said. “They clearly don’t want recreational marijuana.”
With SQ 820’s fate now decided, Stitt and state lawmakers said they will work to tighten control of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program. But he acknowledged that they must be careful not to violate the will of voters who have gone through the medical marijuana legalization procedure.
“Oklahomans have a big heart: that if it is [cannabis] We’re going to help someone medically, we want that to happen,” Stitt said. “But we don’t think everyone with a hanging nail should be able to get a medical card.”
Until now, Dozens of cannabis-related bills It has been introduced in the 2023 legislative session, including several bills designed to tighten regulations for the state’s medical marijuana industry. of between it SB 116which prohibits commercial medical marijuana growers from being within 1,000 feet of a place of worship. SB 133 It excludes marijuana production from agricultural sales tax credits, likely raising the tax liability of hemp growers. another bill, SB 801Eliminates restrictions on local control of the cannabis business by allowing municipalities to modify planning or zoning procedures to prevent medical cannabis companies from locating in certain areas.
The bills will be considered during the 2023 legislative session, which ends May 26.