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Editorial: Lawmakers pass sensible measure to shore up medical marijuana industry

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Lawmakers passed several measures to rid the medical marijuana industry of bad actors.

The Legislature made several necessary, commonsense moves this past session to rein in the runaway medical marijuana industry in the state.

Among the latest are House Bill 3208, which puts a two-year moratorium on new grower, dispensary and processor license applications, and House Bill 2179, which restructures the fees for growers, processors, dispensaries and testing laboratories.

Both are smart first steps in getting control of what has become a landscape for bad actors. Federal and state officials have said Oklahoma’s lax laws are giving criminals a foothold into expanding their enterprises.

Large parcels of land in rural Oklahoma are being purchased by out-of-state buyers and turned into fortresses that are difficult for law enforcement and inspectors to access. Law enforcement officials say marijuana products being sold illegally in other states are being tracked to Oklahoma. There is concern that this breeds other types of smuggling and other criminal activity.

Though most workers in this burgeoning Oklahoma industry are doing everything by the book, the shady element harms everyone. These new laws are similar to those in other states with varying degrees of legal marijuana. It will help even the playing field and ensure public safety.

Medical marijuana has been legal since voters approved a state question in 2018. For years, lawmakers ignored the growing desire by constituents to legalize marijuana for at least medicinal use. Tired of waiting, voters used an initiative petition to put it on the ballot.

The problem was a poorly written measure. The law was intended to encourage local growers and small businesses to provide the products for people who need them. Instead, low fees an unlimited licenses flooded the market, many from outside the state.

Oklahoma produces more marijuana products than can be consumed here. Lawmakers now have to tighten the regulations to strengthen the industry.

The moratorium begins Aug. 1 and ends Aug. 1, 2024. Nothing changes for current licensees who stay in compliance. If a license is denied, surrendered or expires without renewal, another application by that previous license holder cannot be submitted until after the moratorium.

The amount of fees assessed will become a tiered system for growers, producers and dispensaries. The tiers are based on factors such as size and type of grower, amount of volume for processors and annual sales for dispensaries. The tiers start at $2,500 and go up to $50,000 for growers. The testing laboratories will pay a flat $20,000 fee.

Other productive laws include ones making the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority an independent agency (Senate Bill 1543), authorizing the use of “secret shoppers” to spot-check dispensaries (HB 3971), requiring signage to identify commercial growers, mandating that marijuana farms be listed on the sensitive crop registry (SB 1737), allowing the revocation of licenses for those diverting products for illegal sale and requiring all industry employees to be licensed by the OMMA (SB 1704).

These are fair measures that should help get Oklahoma on the path to a safe and secure industry.

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