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Medical Marijuana Is Literally Too Popular for Oklahoma to Handle

Medical Marijuana is Literally too Popular for Oklahoma to Handle
PHOTO Stacie DaPonte

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Medical Marijuana Is Literally Too Popular for Oklahoma to Handle

Flood of applications from prospective cannabis patients closes state Medical Marijuana Authority customer service center.

Medical marijuana is proving immensely popular in Oklahoma, where the drug has been legally available for less than six months — so popular that the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) is at the moment literally overwhelmed by patient demand.

Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana last June, passing Question 788 by a decisive 15-point margin at the polls, with more than 58 percent of voters in favor.

In what is both a land-speed record and a model for other states to follow, the state’s medical marijuana program launched less than two months later on Aug. 25 — without any strict caps on the number of licenses it would issue to storefront dispensaries or cultivators.

As for how many of Oklahoma’s 3.9 million residents would seek state approval to use cannabis?

Officials guessed between 40,000 and 80,000 for the first year, with more later.

They may have been off.

By Dec. 9, the OMMA had issued 754 dispensary licenses and 1,206 licenses to cultivate plus another 25,000 patient licenses.

Dispensaries would sell just shy of $1 million worth of cannabis that first month.

By the end of February, the number of licensed patients in the state had more than tripled, to 65,000.

Under state law, Oklahoma cannabis authorities are required to process a patient’s application to use cannabis legally within two weeks.

In the fall, OMMA was processing about 1,200 patient applications per week.

But by February, the office started receiving about 5,000 applications a week — with another 1,000 calls to a customer-service call center every day, according to KJRH-2, a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based NBC affiliate.

The flood of applications has led OMMA to temporarily shut down the customer-call center. Its employees have been reassigned to processing the backlog of patient applications, as KFOR first reported.

According to owners of Oklahoma dispensaries — who would certainly like as many patients licensed as possible, for obvious reasons — the state’s inability to handle the demand for legal cannabis has frustrated many would-be medical-marijuana patients, many of whom are over 60.

Currently, the only way to receive a medical marijuana “card” in the state is via an online application. (Compare this to other states, where medical-marijuana recommendations from physicians were granted in person or via telemedicine, creating a cottage industry that might not always have been immune to corruption but was at least reliably quick and efficient.)

With OMMA unable to process paperwork quickly and the call-center temporarily shut down, Oklahomans unsure how to access cannabis have been calling dispensaries, who in turn can do nothing but direct them to OMMA, KFORS reported.

That’s annoying, but that’s a good problem to have.

It means that the examples of other states — including Arkansas and North Dakota, both of which legalized medical marijuana in 2016 but have yet to records a sale — where setting up a medical-marijuana program has taken years, where officials have banned smokable marijuana (something that Oklahoma could have done but chose not to), and where officials have so limited cultivation and retail licenses that it created an incentive to continue patronizing the black market are examples of government slow-rolling and bureaucratic inefficiency.

In Oklahoma, a deep-red state, a medical-marijuana program went from a fantasy to a ballot measure to a real thing in less than a year.

In the Oklahoma state Legislature, lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to approve a bill to more strictly regulate the state industry and offer more rules for patients — including an outright defiance of federal law that would allow patients to carry guns.

In other words: Oklahoma is an object lesson that there is nothing especially difficult or complicated about legalizing medical marijuana, which is near-guaranteed to be overwhelmingly popular.

TELL US, do you use marijuana for medical reasons?

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Scott

    March 6, 2019 at 2:04 am

    The reason they had cannabis made illegal, was for the science and pharmaceutical industry.they cooked their goose

  2. bob

    March 4, 2019 at 2:20 am

    Most doctors have lowered there visit rates to $75, one in Broken Arrow now charges $60, no reason to pay over that.

  3. 7 Year Oklahoma Resident

    March 3, 2019 at 12:10 am

    I’ve lived in OK for 7 years. OK is known to much of the rest of the country at best as “flyover country” and at worst as a low educated, backwater place. We rank 1st in the worst things and last in the best things.
    It’s finally nice to have something that OK can be proud of and many other states are envious as to how well this 1st year for medical marijuana has gone in OK. There were some recent regulations passed by lawmakers but thankfully the leaders in both House & Senate have recognized the “will of the people” that want something to treat pain besides opioids that have lead to 1,000’s of overdoses.

  4. Vickie

    March 2, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    Yes I do, I replaced my pain medicine for medical cannabis for three months and I have been feeling so much better. My health has started to in prove as well.

  5. Brannan

    March 2, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    Absolutely!! Anxiety, insomnia! Such a great natural option to chill out and actually sleep really well. I’m excited to see what its going to do for the state, but most importantly the availability to patients in need for something that works and is not addictive!!

    • Evan O’leary

      March 13, 2019 at 12:28 pm

      I’m in Ky and unless they legalize marijuana federally it probably won’t be legal here for a while. I have a brain injury and some severe anxiety problems that have essentially destroyed my life!! I hate medication, hate, and the meds don’t fully work either. I know that marijuana will give me relief with this issue. It makes me happy to know that it works with your anxiety. Everyone please email your senator to vote in favor of s420 on 3/29/19. Do it as quickly as possible so they can read it before they go in to that session and vote. If able write in the subject line “vote for s420” so if they look at their mailbox they’ll be able to see how many voters are pro legalization.

  6. Justin Tubbs

    March 2, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    I use it for rheumatoid arthritis as well and anxiety and PTSD

  7. Gary Harper

    March 2, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    Oklahoma Legislators need to bring recreational marijuana to the vote of the people.

  8. DreadPirateR

    March 2, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    “Currently, the only way to receive a medical marijuana “card” in the state is via an online application. (Compare this to other states, where medical-marijuana recommendations from physicians were granted in person or via telemedicine, creating a cottage industry that might not always have been immune to corruption but was at least reliably quick and efficient.)”

    Just for the record, we require both – you have to get the recommendation from a doctor either in person or via telemedicine, and then submit that recommendation form via the online state application system. And the recommendation system has become just the cottage industry it is everywhere else – most ‘practicing’ physicians refuse to write the recommendations so a few dozen clinics have opened just for these appointments and they’re mostly charging $150-250 for a 5 minute vitals check with the nurse and a 3 minute chat with the doctor.

    • Mike

      March 7, 2019 at 10:52 am

      That sounds like my regular Dr visits!

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