By Jesse Crittenden
CNHI News Oklahoma
While the medical marijuana industry in Oklahoma has hit new highs in recent months, a new bill could limit its further growth for two years.
Oklahoma’s 2021 cap for medical marijuana companies, or House Bill 2272, would cap the cap on the number of commercial licenses for active medical marijuana. The cap would be based on the number of active pharmacies, producers, and processors in the state as of September 1 and would remain in effect through September 2023.
The bill was recently passed by the State House in a 69-21 vote and sent to the Senate last week.
State MP Josh West, R-Grove, drafted the bill to improve oversight of the state’s marijuana industry, he said on the floor of the house last Wednesday.
“We have a thriving medical marijuana industry in the state of Oklahoma. At the same time, we have a thriving black market industry in Oklahoma, ”West said. “So that can’t quite stop it, but I think that slows it down.”
The bill would also introduce new requirements for the active use of current commercial licenses, and commercial license holders would have 18 months to meet these requirements. For pharmacies and processors, this would mean a minimum requirement of $ 5,000 gross revenue per month, while growers would have to maintain at least 50 plants per month.
Commercial licenses that do not meet these requirements will be terminated.
According to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, the state currently has 10,000 active commercial licenses. However, the bill would ultimately reduce this to 8,000-5,000 producers, 2,000 pharmacies and 1,000 processors.
While West and other state officials argue the bill will add the necessary scrutiny, opponents argue that it violates the original intent of State Question 788, which legalized medical marijuana in 2018.
Chip Paul, who authored SQ 788, said he wrote the bill for the industry that resembled a free market economy, and bills like HB 2272 placed unnecessary restrictions on the industry.
“We will never see the destruction of our free market economy as a good thing,” said Paul. “That was one of the core principles that we set out in SQ 788. SQ 788 is possibly the most popular law Oklahoma has ever passed, and it’s popular because of its core principles. This is an opportunity that should be open to every Oklahoman and not restricted. What other industry do we restrict licensing? “
Paul said he agreed with West that the black market was becoming a problem, but not because of the growing number of commercial licenses. Paul said there was a lack of enforcement of basic regulations like verification of ownership documents and business locations, as well as quality standards, and HB 2272 was doing nothing to address these issues.
“The problem isn’t too many licenses, the problem isn’t enforcement,” said Paul. “The free market only works with enforcement. If you let a donut shop cook in a parking lot with no license, dirty oil and grease, and no safe standards, it quickly gets out of hand. So you need to have some checks and balances. Our control over licensing was enforcement. It should absolutely be a fundamental thing, and it doesn’t happen. “
State MP Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, said one of the reasons he voted no is because the license limit and active use requirements could harm small businesses.
“I think it’s a bill that kills the job. I think it hurts the economy if you limit these kinds of things, ”said Rosecrants. “I firmly believe that small businesses have a chance to compete with some of the big ones. Many people will tell you that it is too early to limit these things, especially since we legalized marijuana a few years ago. “
An OMMA spokesman said the agency is monitoring the bill and currently has no comment. However, the spokesman said OMMA is confident that Metrc’s new seed-to-sale program launched last month will improve the tracking of licensed, safe products in Oklahoma and separate them from the black market.
Crittenden writes for the Norman Transcript.