Agricultural groups say the rapid growth of Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana industry is “fundamentally changing” rural parts of the state.
Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s, Dairy Producers, Soybean, and Agricultural Aviation Associations cosigned a letter to Adria Berry, the newly installed director of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority.
In the letter, the groups expressed “great concern” regarding the nearly 9,000 active medical marijuana grow licenses and asked for Berry to temporarily stop issuing new licenses. Berry responded last week and said OMMA does not have the authority to do so.
“Under current statutes, however, we do not have the authority to issue a moratorium on grower licenses,” Berry said in a statement. “But I look forward to working with legislators and the leaders of your associations to find a solution to these pressing concerns.”
Michael Kelsey, the Executive Vice President of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, said some farms have run into problems using herbicides after grow facilities opened up nearby.
“When someone approaches and says, ‘You can’t spray on your own land’… we view that as a bit of a private property rights challenge,” Kelsey said.
Rural utilities, including water and electricity, are also stretched thin because of the increased demand from grow facilities.
Without a moratorium, Kelsey said they are now preparing to advocate for changes to state law in next year’s legislative session. Higher license fees and setting a maximum number of licenses for individuals are both priorities for the association.
“We want to be good neighbors, and we think we can do that,” Kelsey said. “But wow it came on so fast, it came on so big and we have so many so just—timeout.”
The number of grow facilities has grown by thousands in the last year.
As of Thursday, 8,857 grow licenses are active in Oklahoma, up from, 5,971 on Sept. 1, 2020, according to OMMA.
Oklahoma’s current total surpasses the 8,254 cultivation licenses active in California, according to the California Department of Cannabis Control.
Last week, Berry said bolstering OMMA’s regulatory staff is “my highest priority.” She will provide an update on her 30 days in the director's office on Friday.