The City Sentinel Staff Report
Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, said in a recent press release that Senate Bill 1033 – signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt — means that “the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBNDD) can proceed with developing and finalizing agreements that will better protect legitimate Oklahoma businesses by ensuring more resources to go after criminal operations.
Leewright was principal author of the legislation. He spoke about it in a legislative staff press release sent to The City Sentinel, CapitolBeatOK.com and other news organizations.
“We want to protect our legitimate Oklahoma businesses and, at the same time, send a strong message that Oklahoma is not a safe haven for criminal organizations,” Leewright said.
“Senate Bill 1033 provides the statutory authority for key agreements aimed at both of those concerns.”
Leewright, chair of the Senate Committee on Business, Commerce and Tourism, said prior to S.B. 1033, OMMA could only use its resources for administrative purposes. Under Leewright’s bill (which was signed by the governor on May 28), OMMA and OBNDD will be able to enter into agreements that will provide resources for dedicated agents.
“It’s only been three years since Oklahomans approved medical marijuana, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted the explosion in grows, processors or dispensaries in that time — in Creek County alone, we’ve gone from having zero to about 286 grows, with over 2,200 statewide,” Leewright said. “This gives us the necessary authorization and the resources to go after criminal operations.”
Mark Woodward, legislative liaison for OBNDD, said the agency has been investigating illegal operations, but having resources for a dedicated unit will be a game-changer.
“We know we have criminal organizations moving into our state, often hiring Oklahomans as straw owners. One hundred percent of the product may end up on the black market,” Woodward said.
“This new law means we can create a full time marijuana enforcement unit with the single purpose of identifying and removing criminal organizations.”
In addition to strengthening Oklahoma statutes to help enforcement, the legislation also authorizes the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) to charge OMMA a 1.5 percent fee for collecting the 7 percent medical marijuana tax. This will help with costs associated for tax collection and compliance.
“OMMA is committed to patient and public safety. We are increasing OMMA compliance and enforcement staffing as well as working with other agencies across the state to ensure oversight and accountability in this rapidly growing industry,” said Kelly Williams, OMMA director. “We appreciate Senator Leewright’s support in these efforts.”