On June 26th, Oklahoma joined 29 states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use by patients in need by passing State Question 788. Each state varies on their requirements and restrictions of use, but one thing is certain — this was a hot topic for Oklahomans. The ‘YES’ campaign pleaded for the sake of those suffering and also reform for our prison systems and tax dollars going towards inmates processed for small drug offense. The ‘NO’ campaign argued the small business employer impact, confusing policy language, and negative effects seen in states that had passed similar laws, specifically Colorado. The question remains, what happens now?
One of the most important follow through items and questions that remains is how will this be regulated? Governor Mary Fallin has started meeting with legislative leaders, state agencies and marijuana industry experts on what the best next process entails regarding regulations. The Oklahoma State Department of Health will create a regulatory office to oversee the program. This office will receive all licensing applications related to medical marijuana. Sales tax proceeds from this new industry will fund this office. To get a medical marijuana license, Oklahomans 18 and older would need to get a physician’s signature attesting that they need medical marijuana.
On July 10th, the Oklahoma State Department of Health met and voted on 75 pages of rules that will lay the groundwork for patients, entrepreneurs, caretakers, and physicians interested in using medicinal marijuana. The state department passed two additional rules that would ban the smoking of products and a requirement for dispensaries where they will be required to hire a pharmacist. The state department’s general counsel warned board members that instating the two new rules may not be allowed under State question 788 and could invite a court challenge. The board will continue to revisit these topics while working out logistics.
Patients that want to grow their own marijuana to smoke will still be allowed to.
If approved, anyone interested in applying for a license will be able to go to a new website the department will create to get information about the requirements on July 26th.
Marijuana License Cost
Licenses would cost $100 and need to be renewed every two years. For Oklahomans on Medicaid or Medicare, (also known as Soonercare,) medical marijuana licenses would cost $25. Licensed patients could have up to 3 ounces of marijuana on them and up to 8 ounces at their home. They could also legally grow plants — up to 6 mature plants and 6 seedlings.
How would selling and growing medical marijuana work?
A new industry is formed: medical marijuana processing. This licensed industry would ensure that dispensaries could purchase edibles and concentrates in line with state regulations and sell for a profit. An important key is that ONLY Oklahoma residents may be licensed to operate as a commercial grower, a processor or a dispensary. Each license would cost $2,500.
How would medical marijuana be taxed?
Under SQ 788, medical marijuana patients will pay a 7 percent sales tax — on top of local and state sales taxes — which would fund the state’s regulatory expenses. If this tax generates a leftover amount, 75 percent would be directed to education through the general fund. The remaining 25 percent would go to the Oklahoma State Department of Health for drug and alcohol rehab programs.
Could SQ 788 be changed by the Legislature?
Simply answered, Yes. SQ 788 is a statutory rather than constitutional measure, meaning the Legislature would be able to amend the law with a simple majority vote. Signatures are being collected to get recreational marijuana on the November 2018 ballot under a constitutional state question, which, if approved by voters, would not be amendable by the lawmakers as well.
Time will tell with the new law that passed by 57% of the population as the State Health Department and other entities figure out the ins and out of this controversial bill.