Oklahoma’s Rapid Reform Points Out California’s Cannabis Complexity

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On June 26th of this year, voters in Oklahoma rushed the polls to have their say on a state measure known as SQ788 putting the fate of any potential medical marijuana program into the hands of the people. In a 57-43 landslide victory, pot prevailed and the new MMJ program went into effect just one month later at the end of July 2018.

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In the past couple of weeks, the 1,087 legally licensed cannabis growers in the Sooner State have been jarring up their dried and cured harvests and have begun to fill the shelves of the state’s 743 licensed, operating, retail cannabis dispensaries who look to serve over 13,000 registered patients, and counting.

With well over a thousand growers approved and through their first harvest, and nearly a thousand retail outlets to dispense it through, all in a matter of 5 months, Oklahoma is blazing its way into cannabis reform and setting the example for lagging states like Texas, Kansas, Arkansas. . . and California.

Yes, we know that at one time under California’s Prop 215, the state had thousands of quasi-legal dispensaries occupying seedy stripmall hovels up and down the map, but Prop 64 changed the game by “legalizing” the recreational adult use of cannabis for anyone over the age of 21+ and eventually absorbing the medical program into that same web of regulatory red tape.

The result is a major bottleneck of license application approvals for everyone from growers to retailers, and a patchwork of hyperlocal county and city-level anti-cannabis lawmaking that has been allowed to gum up the entire process of trying to do business in what is expected to eventually become the largest cannabis market on the planet.

This dual-licensing approach put in place in California – forcing applicants to not only satisfy the rigorous requirements of the state, but then again those set by their local shitkicker politicians – has crippled the legal market right out of the gate.

For the perfect example of just how “legal” cannabis is in California, you need look no further than the heart of SoCal - Los Angeles.

Since 2007, only 169 cannabis dispensaries have been licensed to do legal business in Los Angeles.

134 of them were approved as pre-ICO Prop D applicants, and 35 more got through under Measure M.

That’s it?!

There are 18.79 million people in the greater Los Angeles area and if they want to follow the law, for ten years they have been told to all make the trek and funnel into to one of just 169 shops.

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Oklahoma, on the other hand, boasts a total state population of just under 4 million, and in the past 5 months they have greenlit 743 shops.

Oklahoma City alone has 180 cannabis dispensaries, beating LA like it’s a Thunder/Lakers game but the Lakers refuse to let LeBron even suit up.

Stepping back to look at Cali as a whole, it really only gets more depressing.

At last count, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control had only granted retail licenses to 462 shops for the entire state – a fraction of those already established in Oklahoma – which amounts to way, way less than one legal retail shop for every 100,000 residents.

Just 70 of the 482 cities in Cali will even allow adult use rec weed shops.

Looking at more mature marijuana markets like Colorado and Oregon, California would need to approve 3,700 retail outlets to match the per capita ratios that Colorado residents enjoy, or 5,500 shops to get on par with Oregon.

There are currently too many barriers to entering the legal cannabis industry in California and hopefully many of them will be eased or eliminated when the agencies overseeing the state’s legal weed release their finalized regulations sometime next month.

That will mark more than two years since Californians passed Prop 64 and will be the first time that we truly know what the legal landscape will look like.