I and other legislators have heard concerns from many of our constituents about the growth of the medical marijuana industry throughout Oklahoma.
We’ve all watched the price of land in rural Oklahoma skyrocket beyond market value and be sold to medical marijuana growing operations. There also is a lot of concern about foreign ownership of these facilities.
The Legislature has taken a number of steps over the past two years to address these concerns and tighten regulations of this industry without impeding the will of the people that voted for medical marijuana in the state.
As a reminder, it was not the Legislature that allowed medical marijuana. Instead, enough registered Oklahoma voters signed an initiative petition to place the question on a state ballot in June 2018. A majority of voters approved the new law. The question, however, was written very broadly, and in the opinion of some it made Oklahoma more liberal than states that have passed recreational marijuana usage.
Working carefully not to overstep the will of the voters, the Legislature first established the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) in the fall of 2018. This agency oversees licensing for consumers and producers of medical marijuana and is responsible for collection of taxes on the product.
The industry has quickly outgrown the oversight of this agency, however. Based on constituent concerns, the Legislature approved additional regulations this year.
House Bill 2646 gives OMMA more authority to revoke licenses deemed illegal.
House Bill 2904 gives OMMA additional funding to hire 62 more compliance agents and enforcement positions, as well as six positions to perform legal and financial duties, four investigatory officers and four positions to perform planning and logistics duties.
Additionally, we passed House Bill 2272, which compels OMMA to conduct on-site inspections of new licensees or applicants for any medical marijuana business license to ensure compliance with the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act. The bill also requires owners of facilities to disclose if there is any foreign ownership under penalty of perjury. Licenses will be revoked for violators.
Senate Bill 1033 allows OMMA to enter into a mutual agreement with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBNDD) so more agents can be hired to investigate and enforce the new laws.
These measures were a result of the concerns legislators heard from constituents. We want to ensure medical marijuana growers that are licensed get inspected annually and are operating legally. If not, they will be fined or even have their licenses revoked. We also hope these bills will help staff up the OMMA and the OBNDD so we can catch illegal growing operators.
You probably already have seen news this past month that the OBNDD has shut down multiple large medical marijuana growing operations that were operating illegally throughout the state based on the laws we passed this session. We expect to see more progress in this area in the future, and we will continue to monitor this industry.
It truly is an honor and privilege to represent House District 51. As always, I hope you continue to contact me about any questions or concerns that you may have at the state level. God bless!