Oklahoma governor blames medical marijuana industry for increased crime
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt wants to reevaluate the medical marijuana industry in the state, making claims that voters didn’t understand the ballot question when the measure was overwhelmingly approved in 2018. During the governor’s address last week, he recognized that voters approved a medical cannabis program for the state, but believes that they were misled in how the industry would be formed.
For example, because of the phrasing of the ballot question, commercial licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries cost just $2,500. In comparison, a similar license in California is sold for up to $181,000. Due to the affordable licensing, Oklahoma has seven times the growers of California despite being just 10% of the population. According to Stitt, the approved ballot initiative has tied the hands of the state government in regards to regulating the industry.
Stitt also noted that the program is attracting “bad actors.” According to the governor, crime has increased since the program has been implemented and drug cartels, organized crime, and foreign bad actors are attracted to the state because of how the industry is currently regulated.
Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority spokesperson Kelsey Pagonis noted that OMMA has not found any significant evidence that voters were confused by the ballot question. She explained that the industry was set up to create a free market capitalist system, which is currently playing out in the state. She also doubled down that the wording of ballot initiative 788 was intentional.
Pagonis recognizes that the industry is flawed and that OMMA has been met with growing pains. Oklahoma has one of the fastest growing medical marijuana industries in the country. While there are bad actors taking advantage of the system, legislators argue that the system isn’t being enforced. Once enforced, bad actors and outsiders won’t have the ability to manipulate it for gain.