Opposition to regulation and cheap cost of doing business has Sooner state drawing a crowd.
Budding cannabis entrepreneurs have found the answer to their prayers and are flocking to bible belt.
Oklahoma, a state that approved medical marijuana less than two years ago, is quickly becoming one of the most weed-friendly places in the U.S. While the state may lean conservative, its aversion to government regulation and accommodating cannabis legislation has people flocking there in a bid to cash in, according to the Associated Press.
“Oklahoma is really allowing for normal people to get into the cannabis industry, as opposed to other places where you need $20 million up front,” said Jessica Baker, an herbalist and acupuncturist, who left California with her pot-producing husband in search of greener pastures.
Oklahoma has not legalized adult-use marijuana, but the laws governing use of the drug for medical purposes comes pretty close.
Anyone with any ailment is allowed to buy medical pot, provided they have a doctor’s note, documentation that is not very difficult to obtain. Six per cent of the state’s 4 million residents already have prescription cards.
Selling marijuana legally isn’t that much more difficult. With no caps on the number of business licences that the state is awarding to growers, processors or retailers, Oklahoma is currently being serviced by more than 2,300 dispensaries.
This is second most in the U.S. per capita, behind only Oregon, which has been selling legal pot for five years. Oklahoma is reported to have four times the number of stores as Colorado, a trailblazer in the industry.
“Some of these states are regulating cannabis like plutonium,” said Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, a trade group for the marijuana industry. “And the financial burdens that are placed on licensed businesses are so onerous, that not only is it very difficult to stay in business, but it’s also very difficult for the legal, state-regulated systems to compete with the illicit market,” Fox argued.
California, where taxes on marijuana could reach as high as 50 percent, requires a $1,000 application fee for a licence, a $5,000 surety bond and an annual fee based on earnings that can raise costs as high as $300,000 per year for a licence. A licence to operate a dispensary in Oklahoma costs about $2,500 and can be approved in weeks.
Communities initially wary about a rush of opportunists setting up pot shops everywhere haven’t had much to complain about so far, with the industry bringing in $54 million in tax revenues last year and scooping up all the unused real estate it can get its hands on.
Even Sheriff Chris West, an officer who was not in favour of the medical marijuana measure two years ago, may be changing his tune on the formerly illicit offering as farmers start to welcome it with open arms.
“I’ve had them call me and tell me, ‘Sheriff, we’re going to venture into this business and we’d like for you to come out and see our facility, because we want you to know what we’re doing.’ And these are long time, good, godly, Christian families that see it as an income opportunity.”
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Written by David Yasvinski