Updated on August 5, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Oklahoma State is one of the most efficient when it comes to implementing medical cannabis law. Back on June 26, 2018, the voters in Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana by voting on State Question 788. Two months later, Oklahoma’s health department began receiving applications from cannapreneurs.
Licensed medical marijuana patients and caregivers got permission to possess and grow cannabis. Only if they live in a location that is far from a licensed medical marijuana dispensary. They can also buy it from regulated businesses. Two years after enactment, the Oklahoma medical marijuana program became one of the largest in the country. By October 2019, the authorities had issued licenses to 200,000 patients and 7000 medical cannabis businesses.
However, Oklahoma medical cannabis business began crying foul in August of 2019. New regulations about businesses came about. This caused some unrest among cannabis business owners and for a good reason. Has Oklahoma’s “green rush” for cannabis businesses ended, as new legislative restrictions and limits on licenses may be passed?
Despite Oklahoma’s successful embrace of cannabis, the “green rush” could not last forever. Oklahoma is sometimes referred to as the “Wild West of Weed” because of the ease of entry as a business owner. Other benefits of owning a cannabis business in Oklahoma are low licensing costs with OMMA and affordable, plentiful commercial space.
The latest developments have led to the looming closure of some cannabis dispensaries. An announcement by the state caused ripples in the cannabis circles. The state suggested that business owners must be residents of Oklahoma for two years. Their businesses must be 1000 feet from schools for them to operate. The new requirement inconvenienced many cannabis businesses. Some found themselves in commercial leases that were not zoned for cannabis business now.
Closing down? Not an option for cannapreneurs in Oklahoma. Moving elsewhere? Very costly and disruptive to sales. Dispensaries could potentially lose the customer base they build. Then some relief came for Oklahoma marijuana business owners because of a lawsuit.
Temporary Suspension of Changes for Licenses and Other Cannabis Regulations
The Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) stated that it would temporarily stop the enforcement residency and location requirements for all cannabis businesses. This was after some of the businesses sued the state because of the legality of the rules.
The lawsuit asked the Oklahoma County district court judge to block the residency and location regulations enforcement permanently. The regulations stated that cannabis business owners must be Oklahoma residents for at least two years. The medical marijuana dispensaries were also required to be not more than 1000 feet from schools.
Now that the lawsuit made its way to court, the OMMA has stated that it will reconsider. It will not consider residency or location requirements during reviewing license renewal applications. But this will only be the case if the business owner had applied for the license before the law.
The regulators agreed to reconsider all the past license renewal applications. But they will be accepted if they were rejected in the past because of the new regulations. So as long as the businesses applied for the licenses before the new laws, they can carry out their business in Oklahoma until the next renewal.
If New Regulations Are Passed Access to Medical Cannabis May Get Worse for Patients
Oklahoma MMJ cardholders will also experience a setback if their nearest dispensary is closed. The state is already geographically large, and the majority of dispensaries are located in more populous areas. Leaving rural patients underserved.
Business owners are hoping that the court will block the state from enforcing the new regulations. Because it will create chaos in the rapidly growing medical marijuana business in Oklahoma. And disrupt tax revenues that the state is relying on, particularly with increased healthcare and administrative expenses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.