Effort continues to address medical marijuana industry
It was an extremely long week, but we were able to report nearly 140 more Senate bills out of our chamber by the Thursday, March 24 deadline last week. Overall, we approved around 320 Senate measures and sent them on to the House for further consideration. We’ll spend the next three weeks working on the nearly 375 House bill that were sent to our chamber.
Among the many bills moving forward in the legislative process are those addressing our medical marijuana industry. I know this is an issue of great concern to folks in our district, and I want to assure you the Legislature is working hard to support this young industry, while protecting legitimate business owners and overall public safety. Accomplishing these goals this session is one of the top priorities of the Legislature, which is evident from the nearly 200 Senate bills that advanced to the House dealing with various aspects of this exploding industry, and there are at least that many House bills addressing this industry as well.
Among the Senate bills approved was SB 1543, which is probably the single, most important medical marijuana bill this session. This would separate the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) from the State Department of Health (OSDH) and make it an independent agency. The main reason for this is that OSDH doesn’t have a law enforcement arm, and by separating OMMA, it would have full authority to investigate possible criminal conduct and arrest violators.
We also approved SB 1367 to increase the fines for those with medical marijuana cards who give product to unauthorized individuals from $200 to $400 for the first offense and from $500 to at least $1,000 for the second offense. Subsequent violations could result in license revocation, including owners or others with an interest in the offending entity.
I mentioned this before, but Oklahoma’s extremely low registration fee is one of the reasons this industry is growing out of control. It’s simply too cheap when other states are charging tens of thousands of dollars to start a medical marijuana business, and our state only charges $500. SB 1440 will increase that to $2,500 to not only ensure we’re getting more serious business owners, but also to help fund the tremendous law enforcement efforts needed to stop the rampant illegal activity within this industry.
In closing, I was happy to welcome Dr. Ted Kaspar, who served as the Senate Doctor of the Day on Thursday. He works at the Stillwater Medical Center as a hospitalist. He was raised on a farm in north central Kay County, and today runs a cow-calf operation in the same area. I want to thank him again for volunteering his services and spending the day with us.
That same day, Rep. Pfeiffer and I were so pleased to get to honor Don Schieber for receiving the 2022 Governor J. Kevin Stitt Outstanding Achievement in Agriculture Award. This is the highest award given by the governor to honor distinguished Oklahoma agriculture producers and he will soon be inducted into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame. As a farmer with more than 50 years of experience, I can’t think of a more deserving recipient than this OSU graduate and Army Reserve veteran. Congratulations, Mr. Schieber.
You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.