TULSA, Okla.- The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has already enrolled more than 3.5% of the state’s population as patients in its first year, and there’s no indication that applications will slow.
The Tulsa World reported that Oklahoma’s participation rate places it among the top of the 33 states that have some form of medical cannabis legislation. The state medical marijuana agency attributes the strong patient participation to minimal financial obstacles and a lack of restrictions on qualifying conditions.
“I think everyone took the language of the state question to heart by not adding medical condition qualifiers,” Adrienne Rollins, executive director of the authority, said of legislators who broadened Oklahoma’s medical marijuana regulations.
Oklahoma voters approved a medical marijuana measure in June 2018, and the industry has taken off quickly.
As of mid-June, the agency had approved 3,211 grower, 1,548 dispensary and 859 processor licenses. Only three dispensaries have opened in Arkansas, which approved medical cannabis in 2016, due to drawn-out legal conflicts over restrictions on commercial licenses.
“I think it helped there was a non-competitive application process,” O’Keefe said of the measure. “You don’t have the government deciding how many pharmacies can operate. For the most part, we let the free market decide.”
The application fee for a patient card online is around $105, and is less than $25 for those on state-financed health care.
As of 2018, Oklahoma has an estimated 3.943 million residents, according to U.S. Census data. With almost 140,000 patients on record as of June 17, the Oklahoma registration rate is around 35 per 1,000 people.
Earlier this year, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a medical marijuana measure that expands the framework for the medical cannabis industry. It goes into effect in August, without any restrictions, and includes state-level safeguards for patients who own firearms.
“I think everyone has tried to make it easier for patients to have access to the system as far as applying and how they can get recommendations,” Rollins said. “The demand is obviously there, so I think it will be interesting once we get to renewal season (this fall) on the business side to see how many have been able to sustain and become operational.”