There are nearly 600 new laws on the books in Oklahoma following this year’s legislative session. We tackled some major issues from protecting Oklahomans’ constitutional freedoms of religion and to bear arms to expanding broadband services and improving economic development. Significant investments were made in our county road and bridge funding as well as for other important infrastructure projects in rural Oklahoma. We protected core services while making key investments that will create jobs and attract new industries and businesses to our state. And we did all this while increasing state savings once again to more than $1 billion to protect the state from future emergencies. It was a very successful session that addressed numerous areas to help improve the lives of Oklahomans and make our state stronger.
Among the many issues addressed was the exploding medical marijuana industry. The state question that legalized medical marijuana in our state failed to address numerous areas of law regarding this popular product. This is often the case with state questions—it’s easy to create a new industry, but voters don’t always think or have to worry about how something will be paid for, regulated or all the various areas, from law enforcement to public health, that will be impacted with their vote. This is a massive industry, and no one could have predicted the tremendous increase in grows, processors and dispensaries in the past three years. There are currently more than 2,200 grows statewide. The legislature has been working year-round since this question was approved trying to properly regulate the industry while protecting consumers, producers and business owners.
One important measure we passed this session was Senate Bill 1033 to better protect legitimate medical marijuana businesses while providing resources to expose criminal activity. Our law enforcement community has seen an influx of illegal marijuana grows and black-market activity associated with it. There has been tremendous foreign interest in this young but thriving industry. This new law, which went into effect when it was signed on May 28, will authorize the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBNDD) to create agreements to better protect legitimate medical marijuana businesses in our state by ensuring more resources go after criminal operations. It’s imperative that while we work to grow and support this industry that we do all we can to protect legitimate businesses, and let criminal organizations know that we don’t want their type of business.
Until this bill was signed, OMMA could only use its resources for administrative purposes. SB 1033 will allow OMMA and OBNDD to form agreements regarding resources for a dedicated unit of marijuana enforcement agents to identify and stop illegal activity. Law enforcement knows that criminal organizations are moving into the state and using Oklahomans as straw owners to appear legitimate.
The new law also authorizes the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) to charge OMMA a 1.5% fee for the collection of the 7% medical marijuana tax. This will help cover the expenses associated with compliance and tax collection.
I was proud to support this legislation to better protect consumers and overall public safety. It will allow OMMA to hire more compliance and enforcement staff while allowing them to coordinate with other agencies to ensure oversight and accountability. I’m looking forward to seeing how these changes will further improve this young industry and better protect public safety and health.
You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.