2,600 Dispensaries and Now Adding Recreational Cannabis, What Could Go Wrong in Oklahoma?
In 2018, State Question 788 in Oklahoma made it illegal to use cannabis for recreational purposes, but it was allowed for medical use with a proper license. However, the citizens of Oklahoma will be voting on March 7th to decide whether or not to legalize cannabis for recreational use statewide.
This decision is seen as an opportunity to boost local businesses and promote social reform, but some critics are concerned that it could lead to an increase in addiction and drug abuse. If the measure is passed, Oklahoma will become the 22nd state to legalize recreational cannabis use, giving citizens who are 21 years or older the ability to purchase marijuana products from licensed distributors and vendors.
Presently, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority holds the responsibility of overseeing the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana program. As a division of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, its primary mandate is to regulate and issue licenses for medical marijuana. They work diligently to ensure that health practices related to medical marijuana are safe and reliable
Marijuana Business in Oklahoma
Following the legalization of cannabis for medical use in 2018, Oklahoma has experienced a surge in the number of marijuana growers. The availability of legalized licenses, affordable land, and minimal regulatory oversight have motivated the increase in commercial marijuana cultivation primarily for medicinal purposes.
Remarkably, there are no restrictions on the scale of operations for marijuana growers. This has led to a significant increase in turnover beyond the supply for medical marijuana patients. Currently, the state of Oklahoma has issued operating licenses to approximately 2,600 dispensaries and 7,000 farmers. However, there are also some individuals operating in the industry without proper licensing.
Switching from medical to recreational
Cannabis legalization activists are actively working toward national legalization. Their goal is to gather enough signatures to place the issue of cannabis legalization on state mid-term ballots. This movement has gained significant momentum, with residents in various states providing their consent to the initiative by adding their signatures.
The proposed Marijuana program will allow individuals aged 21 years and above to legally purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis. Additionally, adults will be permitted to grow up to six cannabis plants for personal use. The Oklahoma Department of Health will be responsible for regulating and issuing licenses to cannabis businesses.
The State Question 820
State Question 820 is the latest initiative that citizens will be voting on, which aims to introduce licenses for recreational cannabis use. The proposed legislation would allow large-scale farmers, transporters, and processing ventures to operate legally. Additionally, the state will establish regulations for production practices and detailed labeling.
A 15 percent tax will be charged on each recreational sale, which is twice the amount medical users pay in taxes. The surplus revenue generated will be utilized for drug addiction remedy programs, student assistance, the state general revenue fund, and local governments. While individual businesses and landlords will have the authority to regulate the usage of marijuana on their property and during employment, SQ 820 will not impact the current medical Cannabis laws and regulations.
Probable Impacts if Recreational weed is Legalized
A recent report commissioned by advocacy groups pushing for the legalization of recreational weed in Oklahoma indicates that if passed, the state can expect to generate substantial revenue from marijuana taxes. According to the report, tax revenue from recreational sales is expected to peak in 2027, with over $97 million generated, while the medical market is expected to generate $69 million. As the market adapts to a larger customer base and lower prices, these earnings are expected to remain stable beyond 2027.
In addition, the law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP conducted an economic impact and tax analysis, which revealed that Oklahoma stands to generate $821 million in tax revenue over the next four years from both the recreational and medical Cannabis markets.
If marijuana is legalized, it would lead to the establishment of dispensaries and nurseries, creating new job opportunities and boosting the pot industry’s economy across the nation. The industry would require workers to grow, distribute, process, and market marijuana products.
In addition, legalization would allow people to choose whether to purchase marijuana from vendors with medical cards or the black market, as it would be legal anywhere it’s sold.
Currently, over 360,000 people, which represents approximately 9% of the state’s population, have been authorized to purchase and own marijuana for medical use. If legalized, those who use it for recreational purposes would not be arrested. Terri White, a former commissioner of mental health and substance abuse services in Oklahoma, supports this move, stating that people who use marijuana should not be considered criminals. However, she strongly disagrees with legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Cons about Legalizing Marijuana in Oklahoma
Legalizing marijuana has drawn criticism from various quarters across the country. Opponents argue that it would create confusion among law enforcement agencies as they try to keep up with changing regulations. Additionally, detractors claim that substance abuse by young people would decrease property values. Governor Kevin Stitt shares these concerns and believes that the ballot initiative measure is ill-advised. He notes that marijuana is already providing medical relief for Oklahomans who require it, making it unnecessary to legalize it further. Moreover, he contends that legalizing marijuana is harmful to young people.
After much debate and consideration, Governor Kevin Stitt has scheduled a statewide election on March 7th, to determine whether or not individuals over the age of 21 can use marijuana recreationally.
The economic benefits of legalizing marijuana have been seen in other states, with direct tax revenue for the state, the creation of thousands of jobs, and proper regulation of the production, distribution, and consumption of the substance.
Additionally, legalization could potentially ease the burden on law enforcement by redefining what is considered illegal. The decision rests in the hands of the people, and only time will tell what the future holds for marijuana legalization in Oklahoma.