Oklahoma, the land of God, guns, and…ganja? Visiting my home state for the first time in three years, the sheer number of medical marijuana dispensaries that cropped up in that time blew my mind. I started doing a little research, and what I found blew my mind more than the jazz cabbage sold in these “pharmacies.”
In June 2018, Oklahomans voted in favor of State Question 788 to legalize medical marijuana. Mary Fallin, the conservative governor at the time, put the vote on the primary ballot in the summer vs. the general election in the fall, thinking the lower turnout would doom the bill. Instead, turnout surged and it passed with a 13% margin of victory.
Since then, this hyper-conservative state has become the place with the most liberal marijuana laws in the United States and possibly the world. Getting a business license in Oklahoma is remarkably cheap and easy. It only costs $2500 for a permit, compared to Colorado and California, where the total cost is in the six figures. No limits exist to how many dispensaries can be in a town or area, municipalities cannot pass ordinances banning them, and it is legal to smoke marijuana anywhere tobacco is allowed (bars, parks, walking down the street). As a result, Oklahoma has over 2200 dispensaries, by far the most in the country. By comparison, Colorado has about 1000 dispensaries, and California about 885. Oklahoma has three times the number of dispensaries as California but 1/10th the population!
And getting a medical marijuana prescription is even easier. There is no list of conditions to meet, and it is up to the doctor to determine if it is needed, and let’s assume that anyone working at nuggmd.com or docsofcannibus.com will find a reason to prescribe the wisdom weed. As a result, over 400,000 Oklahomans – 16% of the adult population – have a card, the highest per capita in the nation.
One of my friends told me his story of obtaining a medical card. He had a video appointment with a doctor, and it went like this.
Doctor: Do you have any questions?
Friend: No. I used to live in Colorado, and I’ve used it before for my ailments.
Doctor: Okay, I’ll get you hooked up then.
He said the doctor then discussed some details on obtaining the medical card and signed off by saying, “Oh, by the way, this is powerful medicine, so you only need a bit. You don’t need to get high to get the benefits (wink, wink). The entire appointment took less than five minutes.
I’ve always been a libertarian regarding drugs, especially marijuana, arguing that society should tax the sales instead of chasing down people who are using a product that is safer than alcohol. A look at the gross sales and tax revenue proves this point.
Oklahoma’s total tax revenue is over 180,000,000 million US dollars annually for medical marijuana. That is not a typo. I quadruple-checked that for fear of being fake news. About $108,000,000 is in excise tax revenue, with the remainder being business and personal licenses.
Here is what I find funny: these “medical” dispensaries aren’t pretending to look like pharmacies. They don’t blend in; they aren’t being discrete.
On the main highway in my hometown, you’ll find Rolling Stoned, a medical establishment with a giant Rolling Stones mouth logo licking a blunt large enough to choke Snoop Dogg. In Prior, I saw THC – the Trippy Hippy Collective, sandwiched between an antique shop and a church. In Sapulpa, I came across a dispensary with a towering crane holding an enormous American flag and an electric-lettuce-green sports car. It looked like an obnoxious promotion for a car dealership, not medicine.
I want to open a dispensary because I have the perfect name: High Plains.
A lot of Oklahomans, especially in rural areas, aren’t so happy about the prevalence of marijuana shops and some politicians have talked about reform. Still, one thing is undeniable – this industry is now a vital part of the economy. Many dispensaries occupy storefronts in otherwise run-down main streets, employ locals, and contribute to the local tax base. And although marijuana may not be addictive, the conservative government of Oklahoma will no doubt have a hard time letting go of $180,000,000 in tax revenue if they were to criminalize weed again.
QUESTION FOR YOU: In the photo below with an antique store, dispensary and a church side by side – what order would you visit them for the most interesting experience?