A new law in Oklahoma gives the state’s cannabis regulators the authority to launch a medical marijuana dispensary secret shopper program. The legislation, which was passed by state legislators and signed into law in 2022, tasks the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) with inspecting at least 50 licensed medical marijuana retailers for violations of the state’s regulations each year.
The new law, House Bill 3971 (HB 3971), went into effect this week along with several other bills designed to rein in control of Oklahoma’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry. Medical marijuana was legalized in the Sooner State in 2018 with the passage of a statewide ballot measure, leading to an explosion of licensed weed businesses in the loosely controlled industry. Since then, state lawmakers have been working to regulate pot businesses, passing several bills in 2022 after an initiative to legalize recreational pot failed at the polls.
State Representative Josh West, one of the sponsors of HB 3971, said that the new law is designed to protect Oklahomans who consume cannabis products.
“Constituents, people in the industry, people outside of the industry, the average public, they wanted some checks and balances in place,” West told local media in a recent interview.
New Law Authorizes Weed Secret Shoppers
The legislation authorizes OMMA to send undercover secret shoppers into the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries. Under the program, secret shoppers will purchase medical marijuana products so that they can be lab-tested by the regulatory agency.
The law requires OMMA to investigate at least 50 medical marijuana dispensaries per year under the secret shopper program. West said that he wants the OMMA to have the same authority as the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission (ABLE), the state’s alcoholic beverage regulator.
“Consumer safety is the biggest part of it,” said West. “And we want to ensure that we are keeping the bad actors out. And so it’s no different than what ABLE does when ABLE goes into a liquor store and ensures that they’re following the law.”
HB 3971 was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor Kevin Stitt in May 2022. The bill’s language delayed implementation of the law until 2024 in order to give OMMA time to develop regulations and processes needed to carry out the legislation.
“Now granted they’ve had two years to figure this out,” West said. “And so I haven’t talked to Director Berry, and so I would assume that they knew this was going to be coming along.”
West said that he has heard from legitimate medical marijuana business owners who are struggling to compete with operators diverting cannabis to the unregulated market. He added that the new law requires all businesses to uphold the same standards.
“If I have a dispensary, I’m going to ensure that not only myself, but that my employees know at any point that someone can come in there and make sure they’re following the laws,” West said. “So I think that it will be a positive thing for the industry, and at the end of the day it’s a positive thing for the consumers.”
After being asked about the new medical marijuana secret shopper law, OMMA declined to offer details about the program.
“We appreciate the public’s interest in our ongoing efforts to implement new state laws,” the agency wrote in a statement to the press. “We will provide the latest information on our website, social media channels and newsletters.”
More New MMJ Laws Also Now In Effect
Several other laws related to Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry also went into effect this week. Under Senate Bill 1704 (SB 1704), employees at licensed medical marijuana businesses are required to apply for and obtain identification cards from OMMA. Those who fail to receive the proper credentials are subject to losing their jobs and the right to continue working in the state’s medical cannabis industry.
Another new law, House Bill 3929 (HB 3929), regulates product quality at cannabis testing laboratories. The legislation sets standards and rules for process validation OMMA will be required to follow and authorizes sanctions for failure to comply with state requirements.
House Bill 4056 (HB 4056) establishes a process to submit feedback about Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program. The legislation tasks certain entities with submitting recommendations for standards and best operating practices to OMMA. The new law also requires the regulatory agency to advocate for rules to govern the industry and to require cannabis testing labs to comply with the regulations.
West said the state legislature could be working on cannabis regulations for the next 30 years.
Oklahoma lawmakers return to the state Capitol in Oklahoma City in February for the launch of the state’s 60th legislative session.