One year after Oklahoma voters said resoundingly that they wanted medical marijuana to be legalized in the state, they've gotten what they asked for, in abundance — the good and the not so good.
The most beneficial "good" to the state is the tax revenue generated. In July, the total was just more than $2.5 million in collected medical marijuana tax. As David Dishman noted in one of a series of stories this week by reporters for The Oklahoman, the amount collected in November — the first month of collections since legalization — was only about $1,300.
Approval of medical marijuana also has meant the creation of jobs. As August began, the state had approved more than 6,500 medical marijuana business licenses. Licenses are needed for those who grow the plant, the processors who commercially extract the THC from the plant, and those who sell products to consumers.
The dawn of this new age in Oklahoma has led to dispensaries opening across the state. In the metro areas, dispensaries seemingly are everywhere. Billboards touting dispensaries are becoming more prevalent on state highways, to the chagrin of some who fear they could hurt Oklahoma's tourism industry.
Consumers of medical marijuana are, in theory, supposed to be patients — people who want access to medical marijuana to alleviate their discomfort from chemotherapy treatments, or glaucoma, or other health concerns. However, language in the state question approved by voters last year was exceedingly broad, saying that "no qualifying conditions" were needed for someone to obtain a two-year license to purchase the drug. Instead, they would only need to "articulate a medical need," as the language put it.
Thus, the volume of patient applications should come as no surprise. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority had expected to see roughly 80,000 people apply for a medical marijuana license in the first year after legalization. Instead, more than double that amount had applied by the end of July.
Based on what has transpired in other states, the OMMA had expected about 200,000 people — 5% of Oklahoma's population — to eventually become licensed patients. We're already bumping up against that in just a year.
It also should come as little surprise that several dispensaries have opened adjacent to many Oklahoma colleges and universities.
The OMMA website lists physicians who are willing to see patients and decide whether to recommend a medical marijuana license. The list includes doctors from Boise City to Atoka. As with any profession, some doctors are better than others, and that's a concern, as Integris oncologist Dr. Johnny McMinn noted in one story.
McMinn said he sees the value in medical marijuana for some of his patients, but, "There are places out there that give my profession a bad name . an assembly line handing out forms for every headache or hangnail."
And, bad advice can result in improper dosing, to ill effect. "There's a lot of trial and error," he said. "That makes me uncomfortable."
He's not alone. But per the people's wishes medical pot is here to stay, and thus far it's booming.