Lawmakers in Oklahoma have signed off on a bill that would stiffen penalties for individuals who purchase medical cannabis and then sell the product to non-cardholders.
After previously earning passage in the state House, the Oklahoma state Senate gave approval to the measure.
“As many Oklahomans know, when State Question 788 was passed to legalize medical marijuana, we were quickly thrown into a situation where we needed to create the framework and guidelines for this industry,” said GOP state Sen. Lonnie Paxton, who authored the legislation. “Unfortunately, this led to the inadvertent mixing of medical marijuana legislation and criminal justice reform legislation, resulting in the ability for someone to buy marijuana product legally, but then re-sell it to a child or someone who doesn’t have their card, with only an administrative fine. Ultimately, this is drug dealing, but only with the equivalent offense of a traffic ticket. SB 1367 fixes this loophole and makes this practice a criminal offense.”
According to a release from the Oklahoma state Senate on Monday, the “measure increases the fine for a person who intentionally or improperly diverts medical marijuana from $200 to $400 on the first offense, and from $500 to $1,000 on the second offense.’ Should someone get busted for a third time, “they could lose their medical marijuana license,” according to the release, which said that the bill “also increases the fines for sales or transfers of medical marijuana to unauthorized persons to $5,000 for the first violation and $15,000 for subsequent violations.”
“I want to be very clear that we are going after the black-market medical marijuana industry and drug dealers with this bill—not college friends who are sharing marijuana product with no money exchanged,” Paxton said in a statement. “These black-market dealers are targeting and selling marijuana to our kids and others who don’t have a medical card, and we are giving our law enforcement officials the ability to do their jobs and prosecute these offenders under criminal violation of the law.”
The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt. Should it receive his signature, the new law would take effect on November 1.
Voters in Oklahoma passed a ballot initiative legalizing medical cannabis in 2018.
Earlier this year, regulators in the Sooner State approved details of a new tracking system that was required in a bill passed by lawmakers in 2019.
The Oklahoman reported earlier this year that the implementation “of the tracking system is seen as a major step toward curbing the illegal cultivation and sale of marijuana in Oklahoma,” with officials in the state saying that “it would improve the effectiveness and speed of any future recall efforts, while allowing law enforcement to detect unusual patterns that may indicate the product is being diverted to the black market.”
The approval from the regulators in late February meant that medical cannabis dispensaries in Oklahoma had 90 days to comply with the requirements under the new system, which aims to ensure that all cannabis products adhere to state regulations.
“It’s going to help us with that chain of custody of every single product in the state,” Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority Director Adria Berry said at the time, as quoted by The Oklahoman. “If there is a product that is not in the seed-to-sale tracking system, then it is not legal—and we will be able to discover that quickly.”
Cannabis advocates are hoping to build on the success of the medical cannabis program in Oklahoma. In January, a group of activists announced a campaign to get a recreational cannabis legalization initiative on the state ballot this year.