February sales data show that Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program is flourishing. In fact, the program’s runaway success is something few could have predicted when voters approved a hotly contested ballot initiative legalizing medical cannabis last June. Despite coordinated efforts to restrict and block key provisions of the voter-approved measure, Oklahoma is crafting one of the most accessible medical cannabis programs in the region. And February’s $7.2 million in medical cannabis sales makes a compelling case that they’re succeeding.
How High Will Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Sales Climb?
By the end of December, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority had licensed more than 30,000 patients and almost 900 dispensaries. And according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, those patients generated nearly $1 million in sales that month. By January’s end, with thousands more patients and dozens more dispensaries licensed, sales rocketed to more than $4.3 million. And according to the most recent state Tax Commission figures, February medical marijuana sales topped $7.2 million.
These figures represent dispensary sales, and do not factor in commerce between cultivators, processors, manufacturers and distributors. Instead, they are a reflection of the way the industry has rapidly developed to meet the needs of more than 54,000 patients and 330 caregivers.
Patient Protections and Out-of-State Reciprocity are Driving Oklahoma’s Rapid MMJ Growth
So what’s contributing to the rapid uptick in medical marijuana sales in Oklahoma? A look at recent policy-making provides an answer. So far, in 2019, Oklahoma’s elected officials have worked to implement policy changes that both protects patients and ensures their unqualified access to medical cannabis treatments.
In mid-January, the Oklahoma Public Schools voted to approve a policy protecting students, staff and caregivers who have a medical cannabis license. The policy ensures students can safely access medical cannabis treatments while at school. In late-February, the Oklahoma House passed a landmark Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act. This crucial legislation shields medical marijuana licensees and those around them from discrimination. It also prohibits any restrictions on the types and forms of cannabis available to patients, including THC concentration. Furthermore, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority clarified and reaffirmed a policy of reciprocity that grants temporary licenses to non-resident medical cannabis patients.
These measures, coupled with the sheer number of licensees Oklahoma has already approved, are driving the accelerated start of the state’s young industry.
Weed Tax Revenue Will Go Back into Regulating MMJ Industry
February’s $7.2 million in medical marijuana sales, along with the millions in sales from the preceding months, are generating substantial tax revenue for Oklahoma. The state collects a 7 percent gross receipts tax on all medical cannabis sales. 7 percent of about $7.2 million is roughly $508,000. For January’s $4.3 million, it amounts to $301,000 in sales tax revenue. Yet those figures pale in comparison to the tens of millions the Medical Marijuana Authority has collected in licensing fees.
As for the sales tax revenue, state law dictates how the government can spend it. First and foremost, the state has to spend medical marijuana tax revenue on regulation. In other words, funding for Medical Marijuana Authority operations. Any leftover funds get split up. 75 percent goes to the state’s general fund, where lawmakers can sequester it. The remaining 25 percent goes to substance abuse treatment programs. But $1 million in tax revenue, though substantial for a new program, isn’t enough to cover regulatory costs. That’s where the licensing fees come in. Furthermore, the Patient Protection Act currently under consideration in the Oklahoma Senate massively overhauls the regulatory budget as the state works to establish a more comprehensive industry framework.