Cannabis

With medicinal marijuana now legal, there seems to be more interest in producing the drug than using it. Medical applicants outnumber commercial applicants only 2-1. Federal law may prevent many health care facilities from recommending medical cannabis.

It is now legal, and it appears there is enthusiasm for medicinal marijuana in Oklahoma.

Only a few days after the state began accepting commercial license requests, more than 1,100 applications to grow, process or dispense marijuana were crammed into the mailbox of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority within the State Department of Health.

Given the early numbers, supply would exceed demand. By Aug. 31, the state had received just 2,200 patient and caregiver license applications to use medicinal marijuana. Of those, 844 were already approved, but only 45 commercial applications had been processed.

Random people visiting downtown who spoke to the Tahlequah Daily Press Wednesday said they were ready to see medicinal marijuana in action.

"I didn't agree with it at first, but I saw some documentaries about how it had changed lives for children and people in general, especially helping with epilepsy, cancer and pain," said Carlos Colina, 34. "It really touched my heart with how it helped children and the elderly treat some of the diseases they had. I know there are always drawbacks to something new, and I believe recreational use will come someday after, but I still support it because of the medical benefits."

Rod and Mary Velasquez, ages 80 and 73 respectively, also said they support medicinal marijuana.

"You can make it illegal, arrest everybody, throw them in jail, and people still use marijuana," Rod said. "It helps people, and it should be legal."

Paul and Susanna Fitzgerald were visiting downtown Tahlequah from Olathe, Kansas, and they think Oklahoma is on the right track.

"I very much support [medicinal marijuana]," Paul said. "I know several people who have had to use it for pain and other issues. I think people in Kansas often go to Colorado [where recreational cannabis is legal], but they might come to Oklahoma. But I think it is on the verge of being done in Kansas."

The business requests in Oklahoma actually outnumber the licensed marijuana cultivators and suppliers in either Oregon or Washington, where recreational use is legal.

Four commercial licenses are available to growers, processors, dispensaries and transporters. Several forms are required, and the OMMA keeps downloadable copies online at omma.ok.gov. An account can be set up, and forms and fees can be submitted online. Application fee is $2,500, and applicable licenses must be renewed annually for each site. Applicants must be Oklahoma residents at least 25 years old.

Residency is a big deal, because marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Board members or managers of cannabis concerns must be residents, and ownership must be 75 percent in-state. Unless the business is a general partnership or sole proprietorship, it must submit a good standing document from the Oklahoma Secretary of State. Background checks are mandatory - a felony conviction within the last five years or non-violent felony conviction within the previous two years will disqualify the applicant. Dispensaries cannot be within 1,000 feet of the entrance to a school.

To date, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has one local physician on its registry: Larry Sumner, M.D., who practices at the Tahlequah Family Medicine Clinic. The OMMA registry is voluntary, and the authority says it indicates a doctor's "willingness to see patients and decide if a recommendation for a medical marijuana license may be provided."

Registered physicians have authorized the OMMA to share their information with the public.

In Tulsa, there have been news reports of patients seeking licenses, but being turned away from primary care providers at Oklahoma State University Medical Center and St. Francis. The health care systems say they cannot recommend medicinal marijuana because their facilities require doctors to follow federal law, under which cannabis remains a Schedule I drug.

The OMMA site also has physician recommendation forms for adult patients, and to designate or remove caregivers.

Approved patients receive a license to legally buy, use and grow medical marijuana and associated products within the state. A license includes name, photo, date of birth, city and county of residence, type of license, expiration date and patient number. It is good for two years. Doctors can only submit applications for Oklahoma residents. Patients need to supply required information and a photo. The application fee is $100, but reduced to $20 for those enrolled in SoonerCare or Medicare.

All medicinal marijuana application fees must be paid by Visa or MasterCard credit or debit cards.

Currently, the OSDH Board of Health and the OMMA are tasked with oversight of medicinal marijuana, but some rules could change when the Oklahoma Legislature convenes in January to begin its four-month session.

A message to Sumner requesting comment, which was left at Tahlequah Family Medical Clinic at midday on Wednesday, was not returned by press time.