Medical marijuana in Oklahoma is blooming, and with it bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Since the program began after being voted in by referendum in 2018, the tax revenue has seen an 11 straight month increase since the first tax collections started in October 2018. However, as the growths continue, signs of slowing in the market are creeping up. The main marijuana tax combined with local sales and dispensary taxes is creating some big profits for the state of Oklahoma, which has only had a marijuana program going for just over a year and almost 180,000 patients in the state.
How Much Money has Oklahoma Collected?
Since the law went into effect in October 2018, the state has collected almost $49 million dollars in taxes, with $27 million of that being from 2019 alone These numbers have gone up and haven’t stopped going up since the collections first began. Since April 2019, over a million dollars has been collected a month in taxes, which has expanded to more than $2 million since May. These increases have been pretty big for the 30th state to pass medical marijuana in the country, however, it is expected to cap off in the short future and level. The state has been one of the fastest to adopt medical marijuana after legalization, with the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority saying they’ve approved 178,173 patients for the program since it began. With the new influx of patients, there has also been 4,287 Growers, 1,173 Processors, and 1,848 Dispensaries approved in the Sooner State. According to The Oklahoman, “The Medical Marijuana tax grew by 12% from July to August, compared to 15% and 34% the months prior. Sales tax showed similar decline, growing 13% from July to August, down from 15% and 31% in the two months prior.“ Even if the marijuana market levels off around $2 million dollars a month, that along with license fees could still bring a hefty payday to the state. Most of the money collected comes from the permit fees from businesses and patients to begin, while another two taxes are added on. A 7 percent medical marijuana tax and local sales taxes also count for a chunk of the revenue coming in. An application for a patient to get into the program costs around $100 and have brought in millions of dollars among the hundreds of thousands of applications. However, as the medical industry begins to bloom, the millions of dollars are being used, but where they all end up hasn’t entirely been decided yet.
Where Does the Money Go?
Out of the 7 percent flat tax that comes from medical marijuana in the state, all of it goes to the Oklahoma Department of Health. The rest of the money, yet, the rest of the money is still up in the air. The 7 percent tax has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars already, which goes to various parts of the Department of Health. While the first portions go toward keeping the office open, 25 percent goes toward drug and alcohol programs in the state and 75 percent going toward the general fund, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. A large part of the services that are funded from the program is the Medical Marijuana Authority, which oversees and regulates the program. They are under the Health Department and get all of their funding from the regulatory organization. Because the referendum that was passed, known as State Question 788, was unclear on where the funds will go, any excess funds have no permanent place yet. For it to find a home, the legislature will need to come up with a bill to direct the money. In the meantime, it’ll be in the hands of the Health Department.
Oklahoma’s History with Cannabis
While recreational usage is not legal in the Sooner State, the medical program has been a relatively booming success, but the program is barely a year old. For years, activists have been trying to get a medical program initiated in the state through the legislature, however with little success. In 2015, the signs of a change began to show with the legalization of cannabidiol (CBD) oil. While hemp had been allowed in the state prior, legal CBD with under .3 percent THC content had not been allowed. After CBD usage was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin, activists decided to attempt to get a popular vote for a medical marijuana program on the ballot in 2016. While the petition received enough backers to get on the bill, some alleged that the Lt. Governor Scott Pruitt tried to change the language of the bill. This act lead to a state Supreme Court battle that pushed back the referendum to 2018, albeit with the original language. Despite it not being a presidential election year, the popular vote bill was passed by 57 percent to 43 percent, confirming the state as the 30th in America to adopt a medical marijuana program. With the passing of the program, over a dozen conditions were approved for state residents to qualify for a medical marijuana card, including chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, cancer and more. Patients with a card are able to own up to three ounces of marijuana, 72 ounces of edible marijuana, one ounce of concentrated marijuana, six mature marijuana plants, six seeding plants and eight ounces of marijuana at their place of living. For those who are unlicensed, Oklahoma police now go by “simple possession” which has lowered the fines and penalties for those caught with cannabis. Now, if you are caught with up to 1.5 ounces, it is now punishable by a misdemeanor conviction and a $400 fine. However, making edibles or hashish comes with a heftier sentence that could go all the way up to a full life sentence.