Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt recently renewed a moratorium on new medical cannabis businesses. Stitt originally signed legislation for the ban in May 2022, which took effect in August 2022 and was set to expire in August 2024. However, upon signing HB-2095 earlier this month, the moratorium was updated with an extension until August 1, 2026.
The bill gives authority to the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangers Drugs Control, and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to manage the state’s medical cannabis regulation, according to a news report from Oklahoma News4. These agencies will have power to investigate law violations in regards to any commercial cannabis cultivators, processors, researchers, and more.
HB-2095 also states that it’s illegal for medical cannabis growers to employ undocumented immigrants, and establishes a new rule stating that only one cultivation license may be used for a single address or property.
Oklahoma Attorney General Getner Drummond praised the governor for taking action against illegal cannabis activity. “I want to thank Gov. Stitt, as well as Rep. Echols and Sen. Paxton, for this tremendous step forward in Oklahoma’s efforts to stamp out illegal marijuana grow operations,” said Drummond. “The illegal marijuana industry is crawling with Mexican cartels and Chinese crime syndicates that pose a serious threat to public safety, particularly in our rural communities. Gov. Stitt’s approval of HB-2095 ensures the Attorney General’s Office and our excellent law enforcement partners have the tools and authority to shut down these dangerous criminal enterprises.”
Oklahoma’s medical cannabis program has grown rapidly since it’s first licenses were issued in August 2018. On the first day that licenses were available for application submissions, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) received approximately 1,600 applications. By January 2022, an estimated 400,000 medical cannabis licenses were issued by the OMMA.
This year in March, Oklahoma voters went to the ballot to decide on recreational cannabis initiative State Question 820. Only 38% voted in favor of the measure, but supporters remain determined. Brian Vicente of Vicente LLP told High Times that “there is still more work to be done” in regard to legalization.
Just after the ballot results, Gov. Stitt discussed the results of the measure with reporters. “I don’t think anybody expected it to be defeated that bad, but as I was traveling the state, I knew Oklahomans didn’t want it,” said Stitt. “They were so tired of a dispensary on every single corner.”
Stitt stated that while he wants to allow patients to use medical cannabis if it can benefit them, but he doesn’t believe that “anybody with a hangnail should be able to get a medical card.”
He also shared that there’s enough cannabis in Oklahoma to supply demand across the country. “That is not what this is supposed to be,” said Stitt. “This was supposed to be medical use in the state of Oklahoma, and it has gotten way out of control. So we have to get rid of the bad actors. We have got to get control over that industry.”
Other legislation introduced after the defeat of State Question 820 have also targeted the illegal industry and some of its common problems.
Recently, Senate Bill 913 was introduced earlier this month, which would require a $50,000 bond for those who obtain a grow license. Should a cultivation property be abandoned, it provides funds to clean up the area. “Ultimately, this will help clean up valuable farmland that has been harmed by illegal operations and allows OMMA or any other appropriate state agency to recoup costs associated with the cleanup,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Darcy Jech. SB-913 was signed by Gov. Stitt on April 20.