Tuesday, March 08, 2022

House Republicans pass 12-point medical marijuana reform package

House Republicans advance comprehensive medical marijuana policy package
Bills will stop illegal marijuana grows, improve product safety and health

OKLAHOMA CITY – Following the largest single day illegal marijuana bust in state history last month, House Republicans have advanced a comprehensive medical marijuana policy plan to stop illegal grows and foster a safer, fairer free market for the product.

The 12-point plan advanced through multiple bills in House committees last week.

"Illegal marijuana grows end now. The black market isn't a free market," said House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City. "This comprehensive plan aggressively attacks the spread of illegal marijuana operations statewide, as the people of Oklahoma have demanded."

The 12-point plan will require:          

  • Making the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority a standalone agency
  • A grant program for county sheriff's departments to fund law enforcement efforts in every county (HB 3530)
  • Full implementation of a seed to sale system (either via court order or new legislation)
  • Provisional licensing requiring pre-license inspections and increased document submission prior to approval (HB 3734)
  • Tiered grow license fees based on grow size (HB 2179)
  • Separate licensing for medical marijuana wholesalers (HB 3634)
  • All medical marijuana businesses to post standardized permit signage at the place of business (HB 2025)
  • Stringent electrical and water data reporting by marijuana growers (HB 4055)
  • Annual inspections (HB 2024)
  • Product packaging standards and maximum beyond use dates (HB 3019; HB 4288)
  • Standardized laboratory testing and equipment (HB 4056)
  • Marijuana grows to register as environmentally sensitive crop owners with the Agriculture Department (HB 3827)

A seven-member Republican working group collaborated for months with industry stakeholders, other legislators, regulators, law enforcement and other experts to develop the plan. The working group was comprised of Reps. Rusty Cornwell, R-Vinita, Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, T.J. Marti, R-Broken Arrow, Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, John Pfeiffer, R-Orlando, and Jay Steagall, R-Yukon.

"All these bills work together to create a multifaceted, synergistic approach to extinguish illegal growing and distributing while focusing on product safety and public health," Marti said. "Oklahoma is open for legal business. Legitimate businesses will rise and illegal operators will fall under this package."

Marti is chairman of the House Alcohol, Tobacco & Controlled Substances Committee, which advanced most of the bills containing the plan.

Fetgatter, who has worked extensively on medical marijuana issues for the past three years, praised the collaboration used to develop the plan.

"These solutions build on our work in previous years to comprehensively address the most significant concerns citizens across the state – from anti-marijuana voices to our many legitimate marijuana businesses – have had since State Question 788 passed. I am proud of my colleagues for their collaborative teamwork on this complex, pressing issue," Fetgatter said.

Oklahoma voters authorized medical marijuana through State Question 788 in 2018. As the state's medical marijuana industry has grown since then, so has its illegal black market. Marijuana grown in Oklahoma can only be consumed in Oklahoma, and authorities have said far more marijuana is being grown here than can be consumed here. Law enforcement has connected some grow operations to international organized crime and drug trafficking organizations.

More than 200 law enforcement agents conducted the largest single day drug bust in state history last month, raiding a dozen locations statewide to seize 100,000 marijuana plants and thousands of pounds of processed marijuana with an estimated street value of $500 million. More a than a dozen resulting arrest warrants in multiple states are being pursued. Such raids have become increasingly common as illegal medical marijuana grows proliferate across Oklahoma.

A House resolution honoring the officers involved in the raids was presented on the House floor last week.

"If you're a bad actor, you better get out or get straight or you'll be next," said Pfeiffer, a member of the marijuana working group. "From last month's historic bust to this aggressive policy package, the message is clear: Illegal marijuana is coming to an end in Oklahoma."


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