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?
I had no idea! We do have a friend here in TX who grew up in Oklahoma, and I know he has invested in some hemp farms, which I assume are part of this whole thing. You have outdone yourself with the hilarious pot monikers!
Oklahoma is the right place to invest especially for growing because there are fewer barriers to entry, so you friend is probably making a wise decision. I do wonder how many of these will be in business next time I return. It seems crazy that my hometown of 13,000 people can support 9 dispensaries, but then again there are 3 liquor stores, about 12 bars, and you can buy booze at Wall-Mart and two dozen quick stops. I guess we like to get drunk/high in Oklahoma!
And I thought we were seeing plenty here in California!
You’d need 10 times more to have the same number per capita as Oklahoma!
Well from what they also said is that to have a Medical Marijuana grow license in Oklahoma is that you have to live in Oklahoma without outside business connection like some have been shutdown because they were Cartel backed and Chinese backed which is not allowed in Oklahoma that way the money stays in Oklahoma.
Do you have any links you can share about Chinese or cartel backing? I’d be interested to see those stories.
Very surprising to read, Jeff. Thought CA had most places beat, although sounds like you still need a medical card, unlike here. The names on these pot stores are funny. Love all your photos documenting your hometown roots. 😄
The medical marijuana scheme is like the Trojan horse that made it essentially legal. The medical card is laughably easy to obtain, but I suppose if you don’t have it you could be arrested vs. California where it is just legal for all.
Hahhahaha. Love your last question. And wow — who would have ever guessed? I’ve thought about moving to OK but the tornadoes put me off, but I like seeing their economy revive and folks doing business! Must share this in my newsletter!!
Luckily, due to climate change tornado alley, which used to center on Oklahoma, has moved east so we don’t get hit as much now 🙂 It is sort of legal in Thailand now, right?
REALLY? Now, that’s interesting. I like to fantasize if I could move back to the US where would I go. I think I’ve convinced the hubby that the SW is the best, but Ok has appeal to me. What do you think?
Yes, weed is legal here now. Funnily, at the walking street we saw a vendor selling it. 😛
Where did you live in the past? What job would you do? I am from Oklahoma but I could never move back. Tulsa is a nice city though, and Oklahoma City has been revitalized over the last 20 years. Some smaller towns like Stillwater, Norman and Edmond are nice too.
My dream is to work from home as a writer. And move back to the US, or at least have the option to do so, because right now, it’s simply not feasible.
That being said, I’ve watched the US from afar for over ten years now and I’m not sure it was the country that I remember it as.
But I’ve always looked at those top places to live that are affordable and safe, etc, and OK comes up, believe it or not. I’ve lived in small towns like Durango and Cortez, Colorado as well as Chico, California.
If you want the extensive list, you can click on my About page.
What about you? Where have you lived? and where are you now?
Oklahoma would be a good option as a writer because it is inexpensive, especially compared to Durango or Chico. I’ve lived in Oklahoma, Alaska, Bangkok and now Taiwan. I did spend a summer in Seattle, a winter in Colorado, and two winters in the Florida Keys.
If you’ve been gone 10 years it will feel different. But you’ll find your friends if you move back and it can be a great place to live I think.
I would’ve never thought of Oklahoma being the weed capital of the US! I guess that last photo really sums up everything. When you were there, did you see how many people went into each of them? I have a feeling the one in the middle got the most visitors. Here in Indonesia, the parliament is supposed to start a debate on medical marijuana real soon. I won’t expect things to be as liberal as in Thailand, but to have this issue being debated here is quite interesting.
That is very interesting that Indonesia is even debating it. In some places in Thailand, it is so out in the open it might as well be legal. In some of the beach the bars sell it over the counter and people smoke it in the bar, so the cops are turning a blind eye.
I didn’t see a lot of business at those in Oklahoma, but in neighboring Arkansas they a limit on how many stores can be in an area, and the one I saw in Bentonville was super busy.
Funny how the previous governor’s plan to doom the bill completely backfired. I would never have guessed medical marijuana use was so prevalent in Oklahoma – and the punny names of the dispensaries are hilarious, as is the sight of one right beside a church in that last shot. My brother was working in Amsterdam for the first half of the pandemic and he tells me there were lines and lines of people outside the “jazz cabbage” cafes right before the lockdowns took effect.
I can only imagine the run on weed shops in Amsterdam. The run on liqour stores in Bangkok was unreal since they announced in the afternoon they were banning alcohol sales at midnight for the next two weeks. The ban lasted a month but everyone was getting it on the black market so we were all okay.
Just a bit over a year ago I visited Weatherford, OK, for a sad gathering made happier by the large collection of family members. Driving around town I was astonished at the the sight of weed dispensaries in what I thought to be one of the few places more conservative than my home state of Texas. The doctor’s warning about the strength of the medicine is well-founded: a few of the younger folk shared some with me, my first in three decades (?) or so, and it kinda knocked me on my ass. In a pleasant way.
Very fun post, Jeff. Love seeing this stuff from you!
Weatherford has about 10 dispensaries, but it is a college town, and students are known to have chronic ailments that can only be alleviated through THC. Thirty years of selective breeding and genetic engineering has made it quite a different experience 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
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