OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The House Minority Leader and the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority are weighing in after Gov. Kevin Stitt said voters misunderstood the medical marijuana measure they overwhelmingly voted to approve in 2018 during his State of the State address Monday.
“The state questions was misleading and it has tied our hands as we regulate the industry,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said during the speech. “We know Oklahomans voted for medical marijuana. They were literally sold a bill of goods.”
During the governor’s address on Monday, Stitt focused on the industry briefly. He pointed to Oklahoma’s cheap cannabis business licenses.
“Because of that state question, Oklahoma charges just $2,500 for a commercial license. Even California charges up to $181,000, 72 times more. As a result, we have seven times the growers in California with just 10 percent of the people,” said the governor.
Stitt also said the industry is attracting bad actors and crime. He also mentioned the impacts on rural communities in Oklahoma.
“You know, as well as I do that, not all of that product is being sold legally,” he said. “Let me be clear: Drug cartels, organized crime, foreign bad actors have no place in the state of Oklahoma.”
“These are all problems that we’ve heard from stakeholders,” said OMMA Spokesperson Kelsey Pagonis. “I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the growth in the industry that we have seen so far.”
“With this new program, we’re experiencing some growing pains, no pun intended,” said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin.
Virgin said she believes the enforcement issue is real. However, she doesn’t believe putting up barriers is the answer.
“The problem is not necessarily the program as it’s currently written. It’s people acting outside the program,” the representative from Norman said. “He’s proposed to increase the growers license fee. We would say use the existing fees that the program is generating to enforce the program.”
Virgin said the voters knew what they were voting for.
“The people who wrote this question and the voters looked at other states and saw how difficult it was to obtain a license, how expensive they were and also how difficult it was to obtain your medical marijuana card,” said the representative.
Pagonis said the OMMA has not seen data that shows voters were confused by the state question, so the authority cannot comment on that. However, the OMMA agrees the wording on the ballot was deliberate.
“When you look at how seven 88 was framed, it was trying to create a free market capitalist system. And so, that’s what we’re seeing play out here,” Pagonis said.
Pagonis also said the OMMA has evolved into a regulatory agency over the course of the years.
“We’ve had to build the industry backwards,” she said. “Rather than having it set up on the front end, we’ve had to catch up to the industry.”
“The OMMA is going to be ready to implement any legislation that is passed,” Pagonis told News 4.
There are numerous bills centered around medical marijuana going through the capitol during this legislative session. The OMMA has grouped them together by category on its website to make it easier for Oklahomans to track. The website can be found here.