Since 2018, Oklahoma's medical marijuana industry has grown rapidly. Currently, the state leads the nation in the number of cannabis dispensaries, and it ranks second for dispensaries per capita. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses two reports that give insight into the prevalence of Oklahoma's cannabis business.
Drew Hutchinson: This is the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I’m Drew Hutchinson. Joining me is Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record. So if you’ve driven through the metro recently, you might have noticed that there are quite a few cannabis dispensaries. Journal Record reporter Janis Francis-Smith wrote that according to recent reports, Oklahoma has the most licensed dispensaries of any state that has allowed this industry.
Russell Ray: That’s right. The medical marijuana industry in Oklahoma’s really surpassed all expectations. Licensing began in August 2018, and already, Oklahoma now leads the nation in the number of cannabis dispensaries with more than 2,200. In September, there were more than 1,700 licensed dispensaries here in Oklahoma. That’s well above California’s nearly 600 dispensaries. And all this is according to a report from Cannabiz Media. Now the founder of Cannabiz described Oklahoma’s numbers as “astonishing.”
Hutchinson: And of course, California legalized medical marijuana and eventually recreational marijuana before Oklahoma did. So to give perspective, those 1700 hundred dispensaries that existed in September, that’s one dispensary for every 2,300 or so people in Oklahoma, versus one for around every 68,000 people or so in California. Russell, your reporter found some possible reasons for this disparity between Oklahoma and other states. Could you share those with us?
Ray: We’re told the difference between California and Oklahoma is the types of licenses. California has more than 100 types of licenses versus a handful of license types in Oklahoma. Also, the cost to obtain a license in California can be as high as $240,000. In Oklahoma, the cost is minimal. The cost is $2,500 for each license. Also, there’s no cap in Oklahoma on how many licenses can be issued.
Hutchinson: That’s right. And not only does Oklahoma have the most dispensaries of any state, but it ranks among the top for dispensaries per capita. Ilinois-based marijuana company PharmaCann analyzed data from more than 600 cities, and it found that Oregon had the most dispensaries per capita with 16.5 cannabis businesses per 100,000 people. But Oklahoma was second with 15.6 dispensaries for the same sample.
Ray: Well that’s right. In fact, other Oklahoma cities ranked high in the number of dispensaries per capita. Norman was No. 7 with 14.1 dispensaries per 50,000 residents. Altogether, nine cities in Oklahoma were in the top 30 per capita. And so by all accounts, this surpassed all expectations for the industry in the first year.
Hutchinson: When compared to other states with similar laws, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana practices are somewhat lax. We mentioned before that Oklahoma doesn’t limit the number of licenses it issues for cannabis dispensaries. The state also doesn’t specify which medical conditions can qualify citizens for a card to purchase cannabis. And this definitely isn’t the case in other states.
Ray: In contrast, Minnesota passed legislation in 2014 that legalized marijuana for the treatment of nine specific medical conditions and capped the number of dispensaries allowed in the state at eight.
Hutchinson: Other quick facts on medical marijuana in Oklahoma: 235,786 people in the state have medical cannabis cards. That’s 5% of Oklahoma’s population and the highest percentage of any other program in the U.S. And all those buyers generated quite a bit of revenue.
Ray: Yes, that’s right. The Oklahoma Tax Commission reported retail sales of medical marijuana exceeding more than $345 million. And according to some projections, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana market could grow to become a $700 million-a-year industry.
Hutchinson: Russell, thanks for your time today.
Ray: My pleasure, Drew. Thank You.
Hutchinson: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @journalrecord and @KGOUnews. You'll find links to the stories we discussed during this episode at JournalRecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report, are available on our website, KGOU.org. While you're there, you can check out other features and podcasts produced by KGOU and our StateImpact reporting team. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Drew Hutchinson.
The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.
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