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Oklahoma lawmakers enact newest slate of marijuana laws, industry workers adjust

<b>Dispensary manager Kayla Anderson, left, and budtender Ollie Miller, right, label cannabis products while they talk about how dispensaries navigate increased regulations of the medical marijuana industry, June 18, at Freedom Cannabis in Del City.</b>
Lionel Ramos
/
KOSU
Dispensary manager Kayla Anderson, left, and budtender Ollie Miller, right, label cannabis products while they talk about how dispensaries navigate increased regulations of the medical marijuana industry, June 18, at Freedom Cannabis in Del City.

Background checks for business owners and employees. Fingerprint scans. State-issued industry badges. Required fire marshal inspections and occupancy certificates for dispensaries and grows…and finally, increased regulations around testing and packaging.

Those regulations and others represent the latest round of medical marijuana laws signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt. They are part of a legislative crackdown on illicit marijuana operations in the state, particularly those run by Chinese and Mexican cartels.

Republican lawmakers claim illegal immigration plays a part in increased drug crimes in the state. It’s why they passed a sweeping immigration law criminalizing anyone in the country illegally.

Stitt pointed to the issue during a press conference in April, days after he signed House Bill 4156, which grants state-level immigration enforcement to local law agencies.

“Our hands have been forced by the unprecedented border security crisis that has seen more than 52,000 Chinese Nationals, along with terror organizations, illegally infiltrate and wreak havoc on our great nation and state,” he said.

So, they’ve also banned people without legal immigration status from working in the cannabis industry.

Many local dispensaries — at least in the Oklahoma City metro area — have already implemented some of the new regulations, as they wait for more to roll into effect.

Kayla Anderson manages Freedom Cannabis in Del City. She already has a state-issued “Medical Marijuana Business Employee” badge. It shows basic information like a small Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, or OMMA, logo, date of birth, issuance and expiration dates, and a long identification number.

“What I don’t know is whether it’s something we should have around our neck on a lanyard, or if we can just put it in our wallet,” Anderson said.

Along with badges, background checks with fingerprint scans are required, as is citizenship. Anderson said most of the dispensary employees have completed their background checks, and most of them passed the first time without incident.

“We haven’t done the fingerprint scans yet,” she said. “But OMMA did make us sign a form saying we agreed to do them when they were ready for us. Everyone working for us is here legally, so we’re not really concerned about the immigration stuff.”

Anderson said anyone who’s worked in the Oklahoma medical cannabis industry long enough has already grown accustomed to responding to new annual regulations, and most are prepared to comply.

Rural dispensaries are the ones that typically have a hard time following the law, she said. Even so, the problems are not usually related to immigration or lack of licensing.

“Some more rural places have a hard time getting a hold of the state fire marshal’s office,” She said, explaining the requirement for building inspections already exists, it’s the delegation of authority to local jurisdictions that’s different from the current statute.

Some laws have already taken effect, and others will follow between now and the regular Nov. 1 deadline for most bills signed this session.

Copyright 2024 KOSU

Lionel Ramos