S.B. 801 would help municipalities address medical marijuana

Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The governor kicked us off with his budget and policy proposals. He wants to focus on further strengthening education, continuing to make Oklahoma the most business-friendly state in the nation, and protecting Oklahomans and our freedoms. We’ll see how his proposals work into those of the House and Senate.

We had already heard nearly 400 bills in our Senate committees by the end of last week. You’ll remember there are around 1,100 total, so we were not quite to the halfway point. Some of those were double-assigned and are awaiting consideration in their second committee while the others have moved on to the full Senate. So far, we’ve passed more than a dozen off the floor, but our main focus is ensuring all our bills are heard in committee before the deadline on Thursday, March 2.

Four of my bills have passed their first legislative hurdle. The bill I’m most anxious to get to the governor’s desk is SB 801. No one could have ever imagined how fast the medical marijuana industry would expand but there are nearly 7,100 grows, 2,900 dispensaries and more than 1,800 processors around the state. While the industry has created millions in tax revenue, it has created problems for smaller communities as grows are straining rural utilities like water and electricity, and there is also the issue of increased crime and fire danger, not to mention the odor put off by these businesses.

Downtown Tonkawa just experienced a large fire at a grow facility that required evacuations and numerous outside agencies had to be called in to come help battle the blaze. Unfortunately, the building was a total loss, but this isn’t the first large fire in our state at a grow. It’s just one of the many issues authorities must consider when approving these businesses.

For these reasons, my bill would empower municipalities to decide if they want marijuana grows within their city limits. It would allow cities and towns to modify their standard planning and zoning procedures to determine or forbid certain zones or districts for the operation of new marijuana-licensed premises, medical marijuana businesses, or any other premises where marijuana or its by-products are cultivated, grown, processed, stored, or manufactured starting Nov. 1, 2023. Any business licensed prior to that date could continue to operate until they were no longer licensed by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA).

Besides working on bills in committee and on the floor, there have been numerous advocacy events at the Capitol, including Rose Day, Higher Ed Day, and Realtors Day. We’ve also had county commissioners as well as FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) students from around the state. It’s always a pleasure visiting with these groups and learning what issues are important to them. This is what our democratic republic government is all about, and I’m proud of those who take the time to let their voices be heard.

We were also excited to have Epic Charter School junior Jake Zander page for us. This artistic young man can do it all, from acting and writing to playing the guitar. We’re looking forward to seeing what wonderful things he accomplishes in the future.

You can contact me by calling 405-521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.