Chart: Oklahoma medical marijuana sales far exceed expectations

In less than a year, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry went from nonexistent to one of the largest and most valuable cannabis markets in the nation.

According to tax receipts released by the Oklahoma Tax Commission, sales of medical marijuana in the state stood at just over $258 million through the first 10 months of 2019 and are on pace to eclipse $350 million by the end of the year – far surpassing analysts’ wildest expectations.

Oklahoma’s launch far outpaces that of other medical cannabis markets – including Illinois, Maryland and Ohio – with sales figures more akin to a recreational launch.

Patient counts have skyrocketed throughout 2019 as well, up to nearly 210,000 as of Nov. 1. That’s more than eightfold what the registries had at the end of 2018 when patient counts hovered around 25,000.

More than 5% of Oklahoma’s population is now registered as medical cannabis patients, exceeding any other program in the nation.

Oklahoma’s industry also is as close to a free-market system as there is in the U.S. cannabis industry, which has spurred the program’s red-hot start.

Under State Question 788, the bill legalizing MMJ in Oklahoma:

  • There are no caps on the number of business licenses that can be awarded.
  • Doctors are allowed to recommend the product for any condition they deem fit.
  • Municipalities are prohibited from enacting zoning restrictions to prevent dispensaries from opening.

These business-friendly regulations stand in stark contrast to tight controls on qualifying conditions and the number of licensed businesses allowed to operate in most other U.S. markets.

That’s prompted thousands of entrepreneurs to launch their own cannabis businesses in Oklahoma. As of mid-November, the state issued licenses for:

  • 2,168 dispensaries
  • 1,415 processors
  • 4,931 growers

It’s unclear how many of these licensees are operational.

But if only 2.5% of the 2,168 dispensary license holders actually opened for business, they would result in the same number of dispensaries that currently exist in Illinois (55).

By the time it’s mature, Oklahoma’s MMJ market could be worth up to $700 million annually.

While that would have seemed unthinkable just a year ago, the speed at which the state’s industry reached its current size is unparalleled.

Eli McVey can be reached at [email protected]