04 August 2022 |

No more Oklahoma licenses, New Mexico’s federal insurance case, and Missouri’s rec bill in question

By Kaitlin Domangue

Oklahoma isn’t issuing medical cannabis licenses for two years

There should be a limit on cannabis business licenses. At the very least, a temporary limit until the market matures. 

I’m not against free markets, but I’m against unsustainable, consumer-last models. What’s happening in Oklahoma’s medical cannabis industry is not sustainable or consumer-friendly

That’s why the state’s cannabis regulators have decided to stop accepting new applications for grower, processor, and dispensary licenses for two years

Current applications won’t be impacted, but the moratorium kicks in on August 26th. So potential operators have a few weeks to submit an application before the opportunity closes. 

“We’ve gone from zero medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma in June of 2018 and now we have over 12,000. With the very, very quick growth, the OMMA did have a hard time keeping up with inspecting all the businesses,” said Adria Berry, the executive director of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA). 

A report from the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) found that, in a nutshell, Oklahoma’s “most accessible” cannabis program in the nation isn’t working long-term. 

  • Oklahoma’s rapid implementation didn’t allow for an adequate regulatory framework to be developed, according to the report
  • Approved grower license applications alone grew 549% from 2018 to 2021
  • Oklahoma took just four months to implement the medical cannabis program, while most states take 26 months on average 
  • The report gives the nod to programs like my home state of Missouri, Arkansas, and West Virginia which have seen success in implementing license caps 

There are currently 56 dispensaries per 100,000 people, compared to 20 McDonald’s, Walmarts, or Sonics per 100,000 people in Oklahoma. 

The supply doesn’t meet the demand. 

What I’m Thinking 🧠  

I strongly believe the government shouldn’t control the private sector. That’s not what I’m after. 

With that being said – Oklahoma’s market is the perfect example of what can happen without a strong handle & oversight on new cannabis programs. 

Cannabis consumers deserve the assurance that the businesses they buy from are meeting basic standards. 

But if regulators can’t keep tabs on the growing number of cannabis businesses, how do consumers have that assurance? 

Even vitamins, which don’t receive FDA approval, are required to follow Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certifications. 

With limited state check-ins like Oklahoma’s businesses have experienced, cannabis businesses are essentially able to operate with no oversight or standards. 

That’s a luxury no consumer packaged good receives in the U.S.

For that reason, I support Oklahoma’s moratorium. But I hate the idea of restricting access to business ownership. 

This is why a temporary license cap at the start of a new cannabis program could be the ideal solution. 

Regulators could have the chance to test what works and what doesn’t while guaranteeing proper inspections and oversight as the program matures. 

It would also give new licenses a chance to enter a stale marketplace and survey local consumers about their preferences and favorite brands before entering the space. 

New Mexico’s insurance battle headed for federal court

New Mexico passed a bill in 2021 to eliminate cost-sharing for mental health prescriptions, including deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance. 

New Mexico medical cannabis dispensary chain, Ultra Health, sued health insurers in June for violating New Mexico’s new cost-sharing law because they don’t cover the cost of cannabis (thanks to federal law). 

The case is now moving to federal court. 

The defendants, who include insurers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico and Cigna, say that six of the plaintiffs (medical cannabis patients) have federal health insurance plans so it’s a federal matter. 

More than 50% of New Mexico’s 134,101 medical cannabis patients are treating symptoms of PTSD, including New Mexico State Sen. Jacob Candelaria, who is one of the plaintiffs in this case. 

What I’m Thinking 🧠  

The federal illegality of cannabis gives a lot of businesses leeway to make their own decisions about doing business around it, even with state-licensed medical patients. 

That’s why I don’t think this case will hold up in federal court.

It’s why cannabis businesses fight to get a bank account. Or a loan. It’s why they can’t deduct traditional business expenses from their taxes. It’s why there are Americans walking around with cannabis convictions or sitting behind bars as a legal industry thrives. 

It’s why insurers like those in New Mexico aren’t providing coverage for medical cannabis. 

And even if it were federally legal, there could still be provisions that allow private insurers to make their own decisions about cannabis coverage. 

With that said – I hope I’m pleasantly surprised. And I just could be. 
New Mexico has passed progressive cannabis laws before, including the 2020 ruling from a state judge who said medical cannabis patients can’t be punished for using cannabis while incarcerated.

One of my predictions is that we will see more and more states and cities creating their own legislation in absence of federal legislation. 91% of U.S. adults say cannabis should be legal either for medical or recreational consumption. 

Local legislation might be defying the federal government’s desires, but it’s adhering to the will of the people – which is what our Constitution is founded upon.

Missouri’s voters support legalization, new poll says

Well, well, well. 

If it isn’t confirming exactly what Missouri voters have wanted for years.

Right now, there’s a snag in the ballot approval process for Missouri’s recreational cannabis bill. 

Legal Missouri 2022, the most likely initiative to make the ballot, submitted 400,000 signatures to the state in May. 

The campaign is short on signatures in two districts but remains optimistic about the November ballot. 

“As we continue to see more signature counts submitted by counties, it’s become 

crystal clear that we have more than enough signatures to qualify our citizens’ initiative for the November general election ballot. The Legal Missouri 2022 campaign continues to work to ensure that every valid voter signature is counted properly, and is excited that Missouri voters will soon have their opportunity to decide,” said John Payne of Legal Missouri 2022. 

The poll from SurveyUSA talked to approximately 2,000 registered Missouri voters. For some reason, I was not asked, which is a little disappointing given my job – *exhale* buuut I digress. 

62% of Missourians support cannabis legalization in the state, the poll found. Just 26% said it should remain illegal. 

Nearly half (47%) of those who back legalization are Republicans, 68% are Independents, and 78% are Democrats. 
This is just another piece of proof that more and more Republican states and Republican voters are getting on board with cannabis legalization, which I touched on in Tuesday’s newsletter.

What I’m Thinking 🧠  

I can assure you: The Legal Missouri 2022 campaign team is hard at work to ensure that the bill makes November’s ballot. 

Everyone close to the campaign team is confident that it will make the ballot, but we don’t know until the results come in sometime next week. 

Like the medical cannabis program, Legal Missouri’s recreational program would impose a cap on licenses. 

Current medical cannabis businesses would be able to serve medical and recreational consumers, which some advocates have heavily criticized because it doesn’t leave much room for new operators.

But the bill also allows an additional 144 micro licenses to enter the recreational market, which will all have Social Equity requirements for eligibility.