OKLAHOMA CITY - One year after state voters surpassed expectations with 57-percent in support of State Question 788, the number of people taking advantage continues to surprise many.
"Oklahoma's been ready. I think they've been waiting for the medical marijuana to pass," said Straiin medical marijuana dispensary co-owner Anthony Lemos.
Adrienne Rollins, director of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, said that after looking at other states, they were expecting about 80,000 patient applications by the end of the first year.
"We have been far exceeding that," she said. "We are on our path to hit 150,000 easily by the end of the first year."
Rollins said the state has likely passed 140,000 approved patient licenses this week, with about 3,500 new applications submitted weekly.
The numbers have gone so high so fast, that according to Tulsa World, Oklahoma is "near No. 1 among the 33 states that have some form of medical cannabis legislation in place as of May."
"I think our medical marijuana licenses are a little bit easier to obtain as far as taking down some barriers for patients," Rollins said. Unlike other states, Oklahoma doesn't require specific conditions to qualify.
With no limitations on how many Oklahomans can open a dispensary, the number of businesses has grown rapidly as well, with more than 1,500 dispensary licenses already approved.
"Within the first year, we've already surpassed business licenses that Colorado took, I think, 10 years to get," said Kalin Bellmard with the Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Association.
But after House Bill 2612 was signed into law this year, new requirements for dispensaries will go into effect later this summer that could slow that growth.
"As we go and implement those in the coming months, we’ll see that some of the businesses have to really make sure that they’re utilizing lab testing, and seed-to-sale systems, and making sure that they’re doing some additional requirements that could potentially cause them more difficulty, maybe more expense," Rollins said, "but then on the flip side of that, it really has been a pro-business area for growth in our state."
As for recreational use, Rollins said she believes it's on the horizon but because of the ease of access people have now, it may not come particularly quickly.