Rep. Rusty Cornwell, R-Vinita, has filed legislation to temporarily pause the issuance of commercial medical marijuana licenses until existing facilities are fully in compliance with state law.

House Bill 3208 would sunset the moratorium after two years but allow the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) to implement a moratorium on licenses as they deem necessary.

As of Jan. 6, OMMA reported 12,197 active commercial licenses, a 22 percent increase from 9,987 in Jan. 2021.

"Since 2018, Oklahoma has seen a huge number of commercial medical marijuana grows and facilities flooding into our communities," Cornwell said.

"In the initial rush to roll out a system for granting commercial licenses, we've failed to enforce their compliance with state law. House Bill 3208 would temporarily pause the issuance of commercial licenses so that we can confirm current operations are complying with the law."

Cornwell said that many land purchases for these facilities are completed with cash, leading to constituents' worries about potentially laundering illegal drug money for illegal facilities.

"We need to put a stop to these illegal behaviors in our communities now and ensure that licensed facilities are legal and safe.”

The bill also prohibits the transfer of licenses or selling of facilities if that license or facility has a current violation.

HB3208 is available for consideration in the upcoming legislative session, which begins Feb. 7 at noon.

(Cornwell, a Republican, represents House District 6 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes Craig County and portions of Rogers and Mayes counties.)

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Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, has filed legislation for the upcoming session that will give county voters the say over who is licensed to grow marijuana within their counties.

House Bill 2989 would require applications to grow marijuana to be filed by June 30 each year in the county where the grow facility is to be located.

County commissioners would then set a date for a vote to be held every other year for applications to be approved or denied.

If denied, an applicant would not be able to reapply for five years within that county.

If growers operate in multiple counties, they would have to apply and be approved by voters in each county where they do business.

"Many of our rural voters did not approve the state question that resulted in the legalization of medical marijuana in our state," Russ said.

"Yet they are saddled with the ill consequences. And they are facing the possibility that petitioners will place a question on a future state ballot to legalize recreational marijuana."

Since Oklahomans approved medical marijuana in 2018 with very loose regulations the number of licensed cannabis growers in the state has ballooned to more than 7,000. This far exceeds the number of licenses issued in other states such as Colorado, California or Oregon.

It has taxed rural water supplies and electricity usage as well as local law enforcement, county tax assessors and others, Russ said.

"We must give our county residents this measure of local control over how many grow houses are allowed to operate within their borders," Russ said.

"This affects public safety, their access to public utilities, their ability to fair and equitable collection of taxes from property owners and other issues."

The Legislature convenes Feb. 7.

(Russ serves District 55 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes Roger Mills and Washita counties and parts of Beckham Greer and Kiowa counties.)

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