Oklahoma has been called the Wild West of Marijuana, and for good reason. The state’s laws regarding medical marijuana are among some of the most expansive in the country, allowing medical patients and businesses alike to benefit from the free market. As a result, patient enrollment in Oklahoma’s medical cannabis program has skyrocketed, officially making it one of the largest medical programs in the country. Oklahoma has lagged behind other, more progressive states in legalizing cannabis; medical marijuana only just became legal in Oklahoma last year.
In 2018, Oklahoma voters approved the Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, with 57% voting to make cannabis available to state residents with a medical need. The legislation intentionally did not include a list of qualifying medical conditions, making the program more expansive and available to patients with a wide range of medical needs. Since then, according to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA), at least 3.5% of Oklahoma’s total population has already enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program.
The program was expected to receive approximately 80,000 applications, however, said OMMA Director Adrienne Rollins, “We have been far exceeding that. We are on our path to hit 150,000 easily by the end of the first year.”
Ease of Access
Rollins proposed one explanation for the program’s popularity, saying, “I think our medical marijuana licenses are a little bit easier to obtain as far as taking down some barriers for patients. The language of the legislation was purposefully open-ended in terms of which medical patients would be allowed to apply.
According to Rollins, “I think everyone took the language of the state question to heart by not adding medical condition qualifiers. I think everyone has tried to make it easier for patients to have access to the system as far as applying and how they can get recommendations. The demand is obviously there, so I think it will be interesting once we get to renewal season (this fall) on the business side to see how many have been able to sustain and become operational.”
The program is also much friendlier to the producer side of things, with much fewer restrictions being placed on the number of applications allowed, as opposed to the strict limits that have been imposed on growers and dispensaries in other states following legalization. As with medical patient enrollment, the number of business licenses that have been awarded in the past years is significant.
Kalin Bellmard of the Oklahoma Cannabis Association said, “Within the first year, we’ve already surpassed businesses licenses that Colorado took, I think, 10 years to get.” New requirements following the passage of House Bill 2612 this year could, however, have a considerable impact.
Rollins is especially concerned that businesses comply with efforts at regulation, maintaining that, “As we go and implement those in the coming months, we’ll see that some of the businesses have to really make sure that they’re utilizing lab testing, and seed-to-sale systems, and making sure that they’re doing some additional requirements that could potentially cause them more difficulty, maybe more expense.”