What will the future of cannabis look like in California and across the nation? A possible answer lies in an unlikely place. Oklahoma is a politically conservative southern state dedicated solely to medical marijuana, which is a beacon of hope, a cautionary tale, and a long strategic match at the same time.
When Sooner State voters legalized medical marijuana at the polls in June 2018, business exploded thanks to a combination of factors that included low infrastructure costs; a low cost of entry to the market (commercial licenses cost only $ 2,500); no limit to the number of dispensaries (currently there are more than 8,000 in the state compared to about 900 in California, which has 10 times the population); and the relative ease with which state residents can obtain a health card (about 10 percent of Oklahoma residents now have one).
Additionally, the only obstacle for out-of-state businesses wishing to open a store is the requirement that the business be 75% owned by an Oklahoma resident.
Since Oklahoma and California are within three time zones of each other and not as much as a cannabis seed can cross state lines (due to the weed’s status as an illegal drug under federal law), you may don’t think that what’s happening in the Panhandle state would have much to do with what’s happening in the Golden State at all.
This is what I thought until last August when Chris Ball, founder and CEO of Los Angeles Ball family farmsHe told me in an interview that he had bought 75 acres in Oklahoma, secured a license there, and was planning ahead – far ahead – for a time when weed was federally legal and the central state location l ‘would make it the perfect center for low-cost, coast-to-coast cannabis trading.
Over the next few months, I found that more and more Californian brands had established a presence in the state. One of them is based in Los Angeles Artisan farmswhich was a first entry into the Oklahoma market, started a seed sales operation starting in 2019 and now has growing facilities and five dispensaries.
Another is Venetian Stone Road Farmswho signed a licensing agreement with the Tulsa company Distribution of stash house. The latter is responsible for the end of the cultivation and puts the results in the packaging of Stone Road. (Stash House currently has a similar facility with four other California brands.)
Eventually, it became clear that I had to put my (cowboy) boots on the ground to explore the connection between California and Oklahoma deeper.
Last month, I joined the “The Green Room” video crew (producer Erik Himmelsbach-Weinstein and videographers Mark Potts and Cody Long) for a four-day three-city tour that took us from frozen fields and lush grow room to the sacred halls of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Along the way we spoke to bureaucrats, law enforcement, cannabis consultants, recreational use advocates, and businessmen looking to make money in what has been dubbed the wild, weed wild west.
Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about the cannabis business climate there and what it could portend for the legal weed industry here.
The video above is the first episode of the second season of our series. Welcome back to “The green room”!