By Therin Miller | May 2, 2022
Two knowledgeable officials from Oklahoma’s Department of revenues told the Tulsa Regional Chamber that if legislation pending this session makes it into law, they expect their grip on the cannabis industry will be even firmer.
In August, Oklahoma's Medical Marijuana Authority appointed Executive Director Adria Berry to lead the charge in implementing a new regulatory framework for dispensaries and cultivation centers. She has doubled its staff numbers from 100 to 200 within just one year with an aim of having inspectors out on-site across all parts of the cannabis industry.
By adding more inspectors and implementing a seed-to-sale program like METRC that tracks individual plants, the state can better monitor illegal activity within the cannabis industry.
“When I came into this job, a lot of people were angry because we had not done our job,” Berry said. “I know there is a lot to clean up. It’s going to take some time. But we’re absolutely doing it.”
When Oklahoma voters passed a measure to legalize medical marijuana, they never imagined how quickly the state would fill up with illegal operations. The result is that there are now more than 8,000 licensed cultivators in Oklahoma despite only having a total of 382,000 Patients.
“Listening to the industry, the industry wants to be regulated,” said state Rep. T.J. Marti, R-Broken Arrow, chairman of the House Alcohol, Tobacco and Controlled Substance Committee. “A lot of people have investments in the industry, and the industry is struggling. It may not look like it from the outside, but inside, the industry is struggling.”
According to Marti, there has been a rapid increase in illicit businesses which has cost legal businesses money. It used to be $3,000 per pound and now you can get away with buying as little as $400 a pound.
“Compared to other states, we give marijuana away in Oklahoma,” said Marti. “We’re the cheapest by far. Joints are $1. It’s a joke. … Growers aren’t making money.”
Among the many steps under consideration during this legislative session, splitting up Oklahoma's Medical Cannabis Authority from their State Health Department would create an independent agency. They are also looking at steep fee increases for large growing operations, and prepackaging all retail sales.
Berry and Marti said that despite the numerous obstacles, there is broad support for reform. When asked about the future of grow licenses, Berry said that there are fewer grow licenses being purchased. She also believes this will eventually lead toward an equilibrium point.
“It has to,” Berry said. “That’s the way the free market works. With the free-market approach and us able to regulate better, we going to see (fewer businesses). … In reality, it would probably only take a few of these large grows to supply the entire state.”