Oklahoma is moving extremely quickly when it comes to approving dispensary and producer licenses. Out of state medical card holders can apply for temporary permits to purchase medical marijuana in-state. What’s behind the surprising cannabis boom in the overwhelmingly conservative state?
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According to Peak Dispensary CEO, Corbin Wyatt, “the growth is due entirely to how lax the laws are here in Oklahoma, which has led to the infamous ‘Wild West of Marijuana’ moniker. We have the least restrictive marijuana regulations in the entire country, and the lack of testing, labeling, packaging and other requirements that have created headaches in other states allows for the industry here to boom. We had the shortest come-to-market time for marijuana hitting shelves from passing the State Question on June 26th, 2018 to having product on shelves by October 26th, 2018. The fact that licenses have to be approved or declined within 14 days of receipt means that both patients and business owners alike can become licensed relatively quickly and easily. There are also no set requirements for patient symptoms to obtain a medical license. Patient approval for a license can range from a severely debilitating illness to a minor toothache, which has created a market that has no limits to the number of people who qualify to use medicinal marijuana nor to the number of people who can grow, process, or dispense it.”
According to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, as of January 14th, 39,571 patient, 273 caregiver, and 2,957 business applications, for a total of 42,801 applications were received, while 30,835 patient, 191 caregiver, 848 dispensary, 1,385 grower and 361 processor licenses, for a total of 33,620 licenses are approved.
The Double-Edged Sword of Lax Cannabis Laws
Naturally, this leaves room for issues moving forward. The lack of testing requirements means that patients are in the blind for the most part on the potency of the products they’re purchasing as well as issues with the PPM (parts per million) of solvents in the processed goods and the presence of dangerous molds, pesticides, and other in the flower itself. Lack of meaningful reporting and product inventory management has left room for black-market product acquisition of flower and processed goods at a bulk level to be passed off as grown or produced in-State when in reality it has been brought in from neighboring States and even some on the West and East coasts.
“The benefits of the lax laws, while creating issues, has allowed us to boom in a way that no other medical marijuana market has boomed before in the country.”
“Do we have issues? Absolutely. However, we’re 100% ready to take on the challenge of creating a patient-first dispensary experience and creating standards for product management and testing in the Wild West,” says Wyatt.
Alex Salaman, Marketing Manager of Grow Generation, with operations in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa, concurs with Wyatt.
“I would say that the reason for the boom in the cannabis industry in Oklahoma, is because Medical licenses are easily obtainable. Also, the sale of cannabis will provide tax revenue to the state. The state has no numerical cap on business licenses, and doctors are free to recommend MMJ for any condition they deem appropriate. The lack of restrictions is attracting hundreds of business owners since the program launched in late August. An open cultivation law also allows for more growers driving up the supply of cannabis. CBD and THC infused products drives up the demand for the product.”
We Shouldn’t Be As Surprised As We Are
“The Oklahoma cannabis boom isn’t as surprising to those of us that live here,” says attorney Matt Stacy, CEO of CannaVibe Inc., a vertically integrated cannabis company based in Oklahoma.
“Oklahomans are strong supporters of agriculture, free market principles, and self-sufficiency. The push for medical marijuana has been ongoing for several years, and the timing of state question 788 legalizing medical marijuana last year was a combination of hard work by trade groups and fortuitous timing. First, the governor decided to place the ballot initiative on a primary election ballot which tends to attract two types of voters: those that regularly vote and those that are motivated by a particular issue to get out and vote.
Second, the previous election cycle saw the passage of several progressive criminal justice reform bills that reduced sentences for the violation of marijuana laws. Oklahomans recognize being number one in the nation for incarceration is not a badge of honor and that we were too harsh on marijuana,” Stacy opines.
“Finally,” says Stacy, “Oklahoma, like the rest of the country is suffering from the opioid crisis and the over-prescribing of narcotics. We see our family members, friends, and neighbors suffering and dying from this epidemic. Almost everyone has a family member, friend, or friend of a friend that has, up to this point, treated nausea during chemotherapy, autism in a child, epilepsy, depression, anxiety, and many other ailments with illegal cannabis and eventually, the people question why this life-changing medicine is illegal.”
It is also essential to understand the spirit of Oklahomans. They are a reliably Republican state, but that doesn’t correlate to being close-minded.
“We see the developing cannabis industry and understand the logistical advantage of being centrally located in the country and the agricultural advantages with incredible soil and good growing conditions. This state strongly supported President Trump, and with the President leaning in favor of some version of national legalization we understand the developing opportunity. Oklahoma will be a national leader in cannabis in the next few years,” Stacy insists.
“Oklahoma is the newest wide-open frontier for legal cannabis. It’s a state that has forced consumers to seek out black market product for years, while longingly watching the progress being made in other states. Now that it’s finally state-legal, Oklahomans are eager to partake in the legitimate shopping experience that dispensaries provide and businesses are more than eager to meet their demand,” says Kyle Sherman, CEO of cannabis compliance and POS software company, Flowhub, which currently has 40 retail clients within the state.
“Additionally, unlike other areas, Oklahoma has not instituted a cap on the number of cannabis business licenses available. So far nearly 900 dispensaries have been approved; evidence that there is less friction for entrepreneurs entering the Oklahoma market,” Sherman says.