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Here’s how to watch OK’s Feb. 18 committee hearing on proposed cannabis bills
Several bills affecting cannabis and proposed by the Oklahoma Legislature are scheduled to be discussed at a state committee hearing Feb. 18 in room 5S2 of the Capitol Building at 10:30 am.
Dozens of cannabis bills have been proposed by Oklahoma state lawmakers since the filing deadline Jan. 21 for the 2021 legislative session. But most proposed bills never become law in Washington or Oklahoma City.
On the top of that everyday political reality, Oklahoma policymakers are up against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a horrendous winter storm pummeling the state, and numerous other pressing issues vying for their attention this session. It’s hard to know what could pass.
But the bills below are scheduled to be taken up at the Feb. 18 hearing by the House Committee on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Controlled Substances. Here’s the post I wrote at the beginning of the session rounding up proposed cannabis bills that caught my attention. The bills below are now being examined more closely by a key committee.
Oklahoma doesn’t make it particularly simple to track bills online and find out how to watch lawmakers. Here’s the permalink you can use on the morning of the hearing to view it online. Here’s a PDF of the meeting's agenda, because the government loves making things unnecessarily complicated with PDFs.
This bill would place caps on the total number of licenses issued by the state for dispensaries, processors, and cultivators. The cap would become where the numbers stand on Sept. 1, 2021, and would include applications that are pending at that time.
Another crucial provision of this bill goes further. It would reduce the number of overall cannabis business licenses available in the state by not reactivating those that have been surrendered, cancelled, or terminated.
The bill intends for the removal of such business licenses through this means to reduce the overall number available to 2,000 for dispensaries, 5,000 for cultivators, and 1,000 for processors.
Republicans Jon Echols and Scott Fetgatter from the Oklahoma House of Representatives have materialized since 2018 as close watchers of cannabis implementation in the state. This effort in HB 2674 by Echols would completely turn over the newly created Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to a different state parent agency with a different mission.
The proposal would move OMMA from the Oklahoma Department of Health to the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission. This major shift would, among other things, seem to recast medical marijuana as a vice in need of law enforcement scrutiny, rather than a medical and consumer product regulated by health experts.
Voters authorized cannabis in Oklahoma as a medical marijuana initiative, which seemed to signal a desire for it to be regulated rather than policed, as it’s been for decades.
Among OMMA’s responsibilities that would now be overseen by the Oklahoma ABLE Commission are the issuance of cannabis patient and business licenses, enforcement inspections of cultivators and processors, and penalties imposed for any regulatory violations.
Echols has expressed frustration with the pace of the state’s attempts to fully regulate cannabis. He joked in a recent podcast episode with the news site NonDoc that he didn’t expect this attempt to move OMMA over to the ABLE Commission to be well-received by everyone. Hear Echols discussing this and other Oklahoma cannabis issues at the 33:00 mark.
This has to do with the area of the federal Internal Revenue Code known as 280E. It’s little-known outside of the cannabis industry. But 280E dramatically pushes up how much state-legal cannabis businesses are required to shell out in federal business taxes. This would appear to improve how taxable income is computed under state law in Oklahoma for cannabis businesses based on 280E. But the details won’t be clearer for me until I can learn more from the committee hearing.
Provides for the destruction of industrial hemp where it fails compliance testing by containing too much THC.
Moves responsibility for collecting the state’s 7-percent excise tax on medical marijuana from the Oklahoma State Department of Health to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The commission would receive 1.5 percent of the gross proceeds for its collection efforts.
Still contained low in this proposal is what would seem to be a major change. Since it’s the removal of just a few words, the change would be easy to overlook. Current Oklahoma statutes list jobs and professions determined to be “safety-sensitive” that could be affected by the use of medical marijuana, such as operating heavy machinery. This bill would remove the task of “performing firefighting duties” from the list.
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