OKLAHOMA CITY - In less than four months, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has collected nearly $8 million in application fees.
As of Dec. 1, the program has raked in around $7.8 million.
"The majority of that does come from the business applications, around $6.1 million. The remaining $1.7 million, coming from patient application fees," said OMMA communications manager Melissa Miller.
The money will support the implementation of the program. Initial estimates are around $8.7 million, Miller said.
"Obviously, staffing is a primary cost. We have about 15 to 20 right now, but we aren’t fully staffed quite yet. We also have our start up cost which includes the software program, which we use to process our application. Other sort of contracting fees, equipment, computers, things like that," she said.
That figure, however, potentially decreases after the first year.
"We anticipate that if Oklahoma stays in what other states are doing and administratively, that we should have an annual fee of this program 2 to 3 million dollars so the OMMA should be able to self fund," said Jed Green with New Health Solutions Oklahoma.
Chip Paul with Oklahomans For Health authored State Question 788, which legalized medical marijuana in June.
"We’re surprised, you know, almost shocked at the amount of funds that the Oklahoma Marijuana Medical Authority has been able to bring in just on licensing fees," Paul said.
Green said the numbers prove the program can be self sustaining.
"Ultimately, this is a wonderful thing. We believe that the OMMA should be a freestanding state agency, and we hope that our legislators will get in that direction in the spring," he said. "It’s already proven that with the $2,500 annual commercial license fees that this is an entity that could pay for itself."
According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, consumers are subject to a 7 percent tax on top of state and state and local taxes. Paul said this is something they are actively working on changing.
"The law was not written that way. The law was written with a 7 percent tax only. It’s a medical product, so we’ll hash that out with the Legislature coming up," he said. "It's a point at issue."
Green said the original intent of the 7 percent tax is to spend 75 percent of the revenue raised towards public education, while the remaining 25 percent would go to mental health and substance abuse programs.
The earliest dispensaries were able to remit taxes was on Nov. 20. The next time will be Dec. 20., according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
A civil suit filed in October claimed state agencies were overstepping state statutes regulating medical marijuana, including the collection of taxes.