Senate Committee Passes Medical Marijuana Rules

Tuesday, March 5th 2019, 7:27 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

A Senate committee passed rules regulating medical marijuana sales and use. But it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. 

Medical marijuana has become quite cash crop. Literally. 

Read Related Story: Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Sales Keep Climbing, Top $2.7M

Purchases are usually done in cash only, and that presents problems that the rules passed today in committee can’t address.

The Senate Rules Committee passed the so-called “Unity Bill” Tuesday, a set of rules agreed upon by republicans and democrats in the House and Senate, and by folks in the medical marijuana industry.

“Lawmakers have respected the law,” said Chip Paul of Oklahomans for Health. “They have respected the will of the people in what we did June 26 of last year with our 56 percent, so that’s very, very encouraging.”

The bill deals mostly with testing and labeling of medical marijuana to make sure it is the right potency and free of dangerous chemicals. What it doesn’t touch on is banking, and therefore proper taxation.

“The banking industry will be largely impacted here, and we’ll spend a lot of tum trying to figure that part out. Right now, it’s illegal federally,” said Senator Greg McCortney (R) Ada.

Here’s the problem. The federal government doesn’t recognize any medical benefits to marijuana, so selling it is still a crime and banks, which are usually federally insured, won’t accept proceeds from what the feds consider to be a crime.

“Right now, it’s a cash business. I know that the Tax Commission has received some pretty large cash tax payments,” said McCortney. “There are people walking into the tax commission now with literally bags full of cash.”

“So, I think that’s highly interesting that somehow the state can bank marijuana money, but a commercial license holder has very limited banking options,” added Paul.

News 9 did reach out to the Tax Commission. They say they can deposit tax money from medical marijuana sales because they’re depositing tax revenue, not direct proceeds from the sale of medical marijuana. But knowing exactly how much to tax is difficult, because there is no electronic trail to follow with cash only sales. 

Just a side note: Last month, the state made $1.2 million in tax revenue from the sale of medical marijuana.