Following Gov. Kevin Stitt’s signing of Senate Bill 1543, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) will become an independent state agency effective Nov. 1.
Oklahoma voters authorized the state’s medical marijuana program in 2018 with State Question 788. SQ 788 created OMMA and the state laws that launched the industry. It also placed the new medical marijuana regulatory body within the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), which is where OMMA has remained since the state question passed.
OMMA is responsible for processing commercial and patient license applications, providing customer service to licensees and applicants, facilitating the rulemaking process based on state statutes, enforcing rules, investigating possible violations of medical marijuana laws and more.
Since the passage of SQ 788, active patient and commercial licenses in the state have climbed to nearly 400,000. Across the state, the sale of medical marijuana and medical marijuana products has generated over $350 million in excise and sales tax revenue. The Oklahoma Legislature has appropriated nearly $70 million to common education since FY 2020, and the OMMA recently announced a $2 million allocation to an Office of Juvenile Affairs substance-abuse intervention program.
As a stand-alone agency, the OMMA will continue to oversee the issuance of medical marijuana patient and business licenses and carry out all functions related to the regulation and compliance enforcement of the Oklahoma medical marijuana industry.
The legislation was authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City.
“It’s important that OMMA has the ability to meet the ever-changing needs of Oklahoma’s marijuana industry, and separating the authority as a stand-alone agency will give OMMA the flexibility it needs to effectively lead in all facets, including enforcing the laws set forth by the Legislature and investigating any violations,” said Treat. “I’m glad we were able to get this important change across the finish line, which will benefit all legal medical marijuana patients, businesses across the state and public safety. I appreciate my colleague from across the rotunda for his diligence in working on this matter, Senator Rosino for helping shepherd this through the Senate and the Governor for signing this measure into law.”
“Making OMMA a stand-alone agency is necessary to deal with the complexity of regulation and compliance of the expanding medical marijuana industry,” Echols added. “This will help us cut down on the black market that threatens the wellbeing of Oklahomans and properly regulate the legitimate businesses approved by voters.”
After Nov. 1, the Governor will appoint OMMA’s executive director, and the state Senate will be responsible for the appointee’s confirmation.
In addition to current primary duties, the executive director will take over responsibilities designated previously to OSDH Interim Commissioner of Health Keith Reed, such as promulgating administrative rules and issuing agency orders.
“Since its inception, OMMA has made great strides in regulating the medical marijuana industry in Oklahoma,” Reed stated. “I have no doubt that they will be able to serve Oklahomans in an even greater capacity as they become a stand-alone agency. We are committed to working with OMMA to ensure a smooth transition that benefits everyone.”
OMMA Executive Director Adria Berry began her role in August 2021. Since then, OMMA has met the staffing requirements set forth in the 2021 legislative session, transitioned to a new licensing software, prioritized compliance inspections for all commercial licensees, established a strategic plan, mission, vision and values, and is in the process of implementing the state’s first inventory tracking system.
“At the end of the day, our priority is patient safety,” said Berry. “I believe OMMA operating as an independent agency will ultimately allow us to regulate the industry more efficiently, which will in turn benefit patients.”
As a division of the Health Department, OMMA works closely with OSDH-wide services, including human resources, finance, communications, legal and information technology. Preparations for the impending transition include hiring for key leadership and support positions within some of those service areas. Over the next several months, OMMA plans to bring on new staff members to fill these critical roles, allowing for a more seamless transition out of the Health Department.
“I am grateful to OSDH and Interim Commissioner Reed for the support they’ve provided OMMA,” said Berry. “We have a long road ahead of us to prepare for this transition, but we’re ready and looking forward to seeing how this move will positively affect our operations, licensees and Oklahomans.”