In Oklahoma the medical cannabis journey has been (and still is..) a wild ride. In March of 2014 a nonprofit called Oklahomans For Health (OFH) was formed, to consider the medical marijuana issue. By May of 2014 the group had cobbled together a law to circulate in the form of a petition.
Oklahoma’s petition window is only 90 days. While the group fell short of the required 125,000 signatures, an activist and grassroots network was built which would later serve as the backbone for a more organized effort which was conducted in 2016. It also allowed the group to make some modifications to the law, in particular medical conditions were removed but high physician accountability was added. The modification were based on lessons learned from other states. OFH was successful in their 2016 efforts and would have made the 2016 ballot if it not for the actions of then Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (later to head the EPA). AG Pruitt challenged the “legality” of the OFH ballot title, which resulted in effectively keeping the issue from the 2016 ballot. OFH was able to win the ballot title challenge in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In fact the court upheld the groups complete ballot title as written. This cleared the way for then Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to place the issue on the June 26th, 2018 primary ballot.
After being outspent over 12 to 1, after being opposed by the Oklahoma state medical health association, after being opposed by every single cabinet level elected official, after being opposed by every single major city and state level Chamber of Commerce, after being opposed publicly by the states major health systems, Oklahomans For Health was still able to garner 57% of Oklahoma voters for a YES on what became state question 788. Further, the group caused the highest primary voter turnout in Oklahoma history. The fight certainly was not over at the ballot box as Oklahomans For Health had state agencies and lawmakers repeatedly trying to interfere with what the voters have approved. The group has been able to successfully beat back most of these challenges.
So, what happens with a law with has open access and free trade? Well, the results are in. Oklahoma approved medical marijuana on June 26th, 2018. By August 26th, 2018 applications opened for medical patients and for commercial license (no limits and a $2500 application fee).
Within 2 weeks patients were being approved and commercial licenses being granted. By October of 2018 dispensaries were opening. Oklahoma now has over 120,000 patients. By the end of its first year of operation (September 2019) Oklahoma will have over 200,000 patients. This will mean Oklahoma will be the 3rd largest medical marijuana marketplace behind only California and Michigan.
Market size will be over $600,000,000. Using the old Chamber of Commerce numbers (every dollar circulates 8 times), this will mean a $4.8 billion dollar economic impact. The naysayers would exclaim that Oklahoma has a veiled recreational marijuana program. Not true. Statistics are indicating that the average age of a medical patient is well over 40 years old. In fact, the very folks who can benefits most, the elderly population, are flocking to medical marijuana and ditching their cabinet full of prescription medications.
Additionally, OFH had the foresight to allow outside of Oklahoma investment into the Oklahoma medical marijuana marketplace. Up to 25% of an Oklahoma commercial marijuana business can be funded from outside the state investors. This is allowing experienced growers, processors, dispensers, and testers to take money from experienced marijuana companies. The state now has several banks which are banking medical marijuana proceeds.
The political climate in Oklahoma is also very favorable. Our legislature meets every year between January and May. While many medical marijuana alternations and changes were considered, the legislature voted very early to support the will of the people by implementing a set of regulations which had been co-developed between politicians, activist, and trade groups, something called HB2612. HB2612 replaces the emergency rules the state has been operating under with a proper regulatory environment which respects the underlying principals of law which is SQ788.