Change on the Horizon of the Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Landscape
By Jessi Lane
The Oklahoma cannabis industry is preparing to buckle down in light of the May 26 roll out of METRC, Oklahoma’s contracted seed-to-sale and tagging system, as well as the introduction of several new House Bills designed to tighten up our Medical Marijuana program. As Legislature shifts their gaze to marijuana licensing and commercial grow reporting and closes in on retail counter flower engagement, cannabis industry professionals and patients alike question how these changes will affect them directly.
All state laws originate as bills. On average, roughly 2,500 to 3,000 bills are introduced each session (Farmer 2022). The sessions are held the first Monday in February through the last Friday in May, allowing legislative committees four weeks to consider new bills. Once a bill passes House and Senate, either in its original or amended form, it is known to be “enrolled.” The bill then goes to the Governor and becomes a law once signed (Gerrish 2022). However, only about 20 percent of legislative proposals become law. “When a bill reaches the governor’s desk, he has three options. He can sign it, making it law. He can veto it, sending it back to the Legislature. Or he can leave it lay. During the legislative session, if he leaves it lay for five days, it becomes law without his signature” (Farmer 2022).
There are a number of House Bills regarding medical marijuana at play this session. While the OMMA catches up on their backlog of pending license reviews, inspections, and investigations, House Bill 3208 places a 2-year halt on any new (non-renewal) dispensary, processing, and commercial grow business licenses to begin August 1, 2022. Upon completion, OMMA’s Executive Director, Adria Berry, may lift this moratorium.
HB 4056 creates a marijuana testing laboratory license category through OMMA. This bill also lays out who can and cannot operate the contracted lab and the ways in which OMMA may oversee said lab. A proposed substitute for HB 2179 suggests a tiered licensing commercial grow fee, determined by the size of the grow. The big guys and the little guys would no longer be required to pay the same fee. HB 4055 requires commercial growers to report their utilities and allow for data tracking. HB 3530 focuses on state tax revenue for the purposes of inspections. This bill allots five million dollars annually from state marijuana sales taxes to fund a county sheriff’s office grant to implement annual cannabis business inspections by the county Sherriff’s Department.
Another bill to sweep the House floor on Lincoln Boulevard with 8 yeas and 0 nays is HB 4287. This bill – drafted by District 98 Representative Dean Davis (R) of Broken Arrow, who is a member of the House Committee on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Controlled Substances for the State of Oklahoma – is known as the Flower and Pre-Packaging Act. It directs processors and commercial growers to sell cannabis flower, trim, shake, kief, or other flower-based product not defined as a concentrate to retail dispensaries in prepackaged containers no less than 3.5 grams and no more than one ounce. Engaging with the flower, known as “deli style sales,” is prohibited under the Flower and Pre-packaging Act, however, the packaging -usually drams and mylar bags- is no longer required to be opaque as long as it meets all other state requirements and is in an opaque exit bag, per proposed HB 3019. State compliant allocated smell jars at the retail counter will be allowed (Legiscan 2022).
Considering the nature of open container engagement at the retail counter paired with the current health crisis, and by citing preservation of the public peace, health or safety, the Flower and Pre-Packaging Act has been moved to Emergency status. The emergency clause is a provision that allows the bill to become effective immediately upon the signature of the Governor or at a specified date (Oklahoma Policy Institute 2022) and will “take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval” (Legiscan 2022). As introduced, HB4287 states that upon approval this act shall become effective November 1, 2022 (Legiscan 2022). Representative Scott Fetgatter tells Oklahoma City’s KFOR, “if all goes to the Republican’s plan, the earliest these policies would be put into action would be sometime in June” (2022). Until then, Oklahoma medical marijuana patients and industry professionals will stay tuned.