Oklahoma’s amount of growers, dispensaries and processor licenses as of June 2019. graphic by Emma Palmer

High rates of medical marijuana blazes through Oklahoma

Medical marijuana is going strong across the country, with Oklahoma set to be the highest user in just over a year of legalization.

Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana or weed, has had a long and troubled history in the United States, but despite all that it is growing at an exponential rate across the US, especially here in Oklahoma. It was first introduced to America in the 1600s as hemp, and in 1619 every farmer in what was then the Colony of Virginia was required to grow it. Today, cannabis is most commonly grown with the intent of producing marijuana, which differs from hemp mostly in the extreme difference in THC content.

Cannabis was not commonly used as a drug or smoked recreationally in America until the early 1900s when Mexican immigrants brought the practice over. This is where the THC heavier strains gained the name marijuana. The drug and practice of smoking marijuana were quickly associated with Mexican and other Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Things only worsened with the Great Depression, which increased tensions with Mexican immigrants and led to a widespread fear and distaste of marijuana. As of 1931, 29 states had outlawed the substance. Despite all of this, marijuana usage continued to climb to the point where even the federal government acknowledged that the states should handle the issue.

Attitudes starting switching up around the 1960s with marijuana finding a huge consumer base in the white middle and upper middle class. With marijuana steadily becoming more widely accepted, many states and even the federal government were on the path towards decriminalization. Then came Nixon’s war on drugs in 1971 and the Parents Movement against weed, which began in the late ‘70s.

Surprisingly, neither of these moves managed to stop the momentum that weed was gaining. This is evident by California’s legalization of medical marijuana seven years after Bush began his war on drugs. This bold move that increased tension between the federal government and the states — particularly in regards to states’ rights — and laid the foundation for the boom in legalization seen today.

As of now, 33 states have legalized marijuana in some form. Eleven of these states have adopted expansive laws that legalize marijuna for recreational use. The laws regarding marijuna vary wildly per state, with some like West Virginia only allowing for marijuna-infused products while others allow the sale of actual marijuana flower.

As it stands, Oklahoma is one of the fastest growing locations for cannabis. It was legalized in 2018 through ballot vote. The industry grew astonishingly fast, and in just the first year 4.44 percent of Oklahoma’s population have enrolled as patients. To top that off, the applications show no sign of slowing down.

As of October first, The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has approved 4,063 growers, 1,651 dispensaries and 1,168 processor licenses. There are a few reasons for the astounding growth of this market, with one being the extreme ease of access. There are no medical condition qualifiers, which made the process easier for all people interested in the natural remedies offered by marijuana.
While not necessarily a reason, one factor that may have affected the growth of the medical marijuana industry is the opioid crisis. Oklahoma was not spared from this crisis, and saw many people throughout the entire Oklahoma area suffering from addictions to opioids. The suffering of these people affected not only themselves, but also their family and friends.

The opioids commonly used and prescribed led to immense addictions and occasionally bodily harm. These experiences cultivated a positive outlook towards marijuana among a majority of the state due to its natural origin and status as a natural alternative.

All that considered, many legal troubles can still plague users in Oklahoma. There are fines and penalties that result from possession or growing without the proper licenses and permissions. This is not to mention that in cases of conflict, federal laws supersede state laws.

With the current state of the U.S. and the political shape of the nation, marijuana laws could change very quickly. With Oklahoma’s market on the rise and jobs being created daily, the market is showing no signs of backing down to change.

Post Author: Brayden McCoy