In several recent posts we’ve discussed state-by-state efforts towards cannabis legalization, which have been uneven at best, with politicians seemingly unable to get out of their own way. The poster children here have been New Jersey, with its repeated stops and starts, and Massachusetts, which two full years after legalization had a grand total of eight dispensaries open statewide.
The list goes on: Ohio, North Dakota and Arkansas all approved medicinal marijuana in 2016, but the first buds have yet to be sold thanks to unending legal and legislative nitpicking.
Has anyone gotten it right? Yes.
It turns out that when the citizenry leads the politicians instead of the other way around, things actually get done. And so it is in Oklahoma. A mere nine months after passage of a citizen-written ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana, the industry is doing gold rush business in the Sooner state, with 22,000 personal licenses issued for medical usage and 785 dispensaries already up and running (take that, Massachusetts).
What did Oklahoma do right that other states haven’t been able to manage? First and foremost, the people led the way. The ballot question was created by a coalition of interested citizen groups, and passed with a solid 57% of the vote. And the language therein may be the most liberal in existence: unlike just about anywhere else, Oklahoma’s law contains no list of qualifying medical conditions for users to qualify for medicinal cannabis.
Despite the amazingly brief period between legalization and the current boom, getting there was not without its difficulties. It took two full years to get to the point of having a ballot question at all, and even after its passage Oklahoma’s State Board of Health attempted to interject its own ill-considered restrictions, such as having a licensed pharmacist at every dispensary. Public outcry was such that the Board quickly backed down, though.
And now? Even conservative legislators seem to have figured out which way the wind is blowing and have dropped plans to make any wholesale changes to the current law. Jobs are being created and the state Medical Marijuana Authority had already gathered some $7.5 million in registration fees by the end of 2018, with revenue from the new sales tax on cannabis just beginning to trickle in.
Score one for the people.