Updated on May 13, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Record-breaking sales of medical cannabis during the COVID-19 pandemic have become a common occurrence in legalized states. But if we were to ask you to guess the top three highest growth markets for medical cannabis sales, would you include Oklahoma?
The Oklahoma Tax Commission reported that the sales of $71 million which occurred in May 2020, collected $6.5 million dollars in state and municipal taxes, and an additional $5.1 million dollars through the Oklahoma cannabis excise tax. Sales of medical cannabis in May 2020 set a new record for the highest-grossing sales in one month since Oklahoma launched its medical cannabis program on June 26, 2018.
Oklahoma is seeing a strong trend in 2020, with cannabis sales increasing over 20% each month. According to an article published by Marijuana Business Daily on June 9th, 2020, Oklahoma reported over $275 million dollars in medical cannabis sales during the first five months of the year, with almost 300,000 licensed patients in the state.
Decriminalization of Cannabis May Be Partly Responsible for Sales Growth
When it comes to criminal justice reform, Oklahoma has been making some big changes under Gov. Stitt. In 2018, the penalty for possession of a personal amount of cannabis was a fine of $1,200 and six months in jail. If the 2020 legislature would have passed Bill HB3228, the charge for first-time possession (under 1.5 ounces) of cannabis by a non-medical marijuana cardholder would have been reduced to a $400 fine, with no criminal charge and no incarceration.
The substantial legal reform for personal use cannabis possession charges was also aimed at reducing the incarceration rate in Oklahoma. In 2018, Oklahoma surpassed the state of Louisiana for the highest incarceration rate (1,079 out of every 100,000 residents).
Oklahoma Leads the Nation in Number of Licenses Issued for Dispensaries
In the Fall of 2019, there were more than 1,700 licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in Oklahoma. By the first quarter of 2020, that number had grown to more than 2,200 medical cannabis retailers in the state. Some industry analysts have called the rapid growth astonishing during the two-year period since medical marijuana was legalized in Oklahoma.
The licensing requirements for businesses to register as a cannabis cultivator, a processor, manufacturer, or retail dispensary are more permissive compared to other states. The Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) in Oklahoma outlines a residency requirement for business owners, certificate of compliance, a fee, and compliance with a 1,000-foot restriction of production or retail proximity to schools, playgrounds, and daycares.
Essentially, anyone who has lived in Oklahoma longer than 2 years (retaining a permanent residence) and with a clean criminal record may be able to acquire a medical cannabis business license for a fee of $2,500.00 and few administrative delays for approval.
Quality Medical Cannabis in Oklahoma is Less Expensive
With more than 2,300 licensed dispensaries in the state with a population of 3,956,971 residents, labeling Oklahoma as a highly competitive market for medical cannabis is an understatement. With low commercial lease rates and other incentives, it is likely that Oklahoma will continue to expand and license additional dispensaries in 2020.
The downward pressure of so many medical marijuana dispensaries in Oklahoma is actually a good thing for patients. The competition creates a price war in many regions of the state, which helps keep prices for medical marijuana very affordable compared to neighboring states, like Louisiana and Arkansas.
The sale volume of medical cannabis in Oklahoma may be trending upward due to COVID-19, as many industry analysts speculate. But others predict that the broad number of qualifying health conditions combined with the availability of medical cannabis at an affordable price level will continue to support increased patient registration and sales growth in the state.