By Kayla Johnson | The Oklahoma Chronic | November 30, 2020
When Oklahoma citizens voted to pass State Question 788 in the first half of 2018, it was obvious there was considerable enthusiasm. People of all ages and all backgrounds were curious about what cannabis could do for them, and what the industry could bring to the state. There was no doubt that the industry would do well, especially as August came closer and closer, and sales were about to begin and online, potential patients compared thoughts on what was to come, now that the green floodgates were about to open.
It was almost a bit of cheerful joke: 'wouldn't it be funny if it turns out Oklahomans really like bud?' As a state known for being especially harsh on cannabis crimes, it was lining up to be a humorous and profitable twist of fate, and the start of something new for our less-than-lush economy.
"Almost 10% of the population of Oklahoma is now carrying a medical cannabis license, and sales are now in excess of $1 billion, with thousands of dispensaries, grows, and processors to keep up with the massive, and growing, demand."
As it turns out, that bit of ironic humor has been the understatement of the decade. Almost 10% of the population of Oklahoma is now carrying a medical cannabis license, and sales are now in excess of $1 billion, with thousands of dispensaries, grows, and processors to keep up with the massive, and growing, demand. With the pandemic raging on, it's no surprise that people are continuing to turn to cannabis to help deal with stress and anxiety on top of other health concerns, but the numbers here in the Sooner State are especially staggering, considering the relative youth of the program, just over two years since sales first began. While there's been concern voiced about an oversaturated market at times, the number of licensed patients in the state continues to rise steadily as well, and with it, the demand continues to grow rapidly. Even small towns, like mine, are often home to more than one dispensary, keeping patients stocked and steadily supplied.
Part of the immense appeal of cannabis is its ability to create bridges between people, and Oklahoma's thriving industry is a thriving example. Individuals from all backgrounds have dipped their toes into the green waters, some after serving time for a cannabis-related charge at some point in their life, others after having just discovered the plant after medical legalization steamrolled through Oklahoma. Bob Marley famously said,"When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself", and for most people, the more at ease you feel with yourself, the more at ease you can be with other people, helping bring people to experiences they may have skipped out on otherwise. Oklahoma, like many other states, often finds itself bitterly divided for one reason or another, and cannabis has created a new, important bridge that has allowed people from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences to have a seat at the table and help make change happen. If it can bring OU and OSU fans together, it's gotta be a miracle, right?
In all seriousness, Oklahoma's cannabis market is really something; it's thriving, well beyond where we thought it would be at this point in time, and the growth continues to be steadily upward for the time being. As the medical market continues to flourish, many have turned their thoughts to a potential push for recreational or adult-use legalization, and what an even broader market could bring. Others, however, are concerned with pushing for anything that would jeopardize an already fairly wide industry; Oklahoma is a medical state that doesn't require one of a handful of qualifying conditions in order to get a medical card, meaning patients have far greater access to cannabis here for a wider ranger of reasons than they might in another. Medical-only advocates have pushed for more specific protections for the medical program already in place before any work begins on a recreational bill, and it remains to be seen which path the state will take.
"Oklahoma's cannabis industry is filled with people who really love cannabis. They love growing it, they love processing it into concentrates, they love baking it into brownies, and they love being able to work in the industry selling it."
What remains obvious, however, is the passion for the plant and patients alike. Oklahoma's cannabis industry is filled with people who really love cannabis. They love growing it, they love processing it into concentrates, they love baking it into brownies, and they love being able to work in the industry selling it. As much as they love the business side of it, many of them have come to love working with patients, and some have found a new facet of their passion: getting their medicine into the hands of Oklahomans who need it most. It's a side-effect of success that has become more prominent as the industry continues to grow, and one that will hopefully not be stifled as the boom continues.
Oklahoma's cannabis industry has taken us all by surprise, to say the least. Even those of us who were excited to see it come to life have been shocked by the enthusiasm and effort shown by our fellow Oklahomans, and seeing the equally enthusiastic demand from the patients growing each month, it's no wonder why Oklahoma's industry has shot to the top. People who once considered California, Colorado, or parts of the Pacific Northwest among the only cannabis-focused states are now turning their attention to red dirt country, and the sea of green growing here. Despite the growing interest from out of state, many of Oklahoma's cannabis businesses remain much like the cannabis movement itself: homegrown, and exceeding all expectations.