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Lawmakers previously pushed for a crackdown on bad actors in the state’s medical marijuana market.
The resulting solutions include the passage of HB 2179: it broadens licensing requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries, commercial growers, and processors.
The law took effect in June and the fees now range from $2,500 to $50,000, based on a tiered fee schedule.
While lawmakers claim the law should help weed out illegal grow operations, the group filing the lawsuit says it will only hurt legitimate businesses.
“The state is hitting the good guys and it’s only helping the bad guys,” says marijuana advocate Jed Green, who said the fight isn’t just about the impact on cannabis businesses: it also targets the constitutional rights of Oklahoma taxpayers.
Green, a plaintiff in the newly filed lawsuit, said it’s unconstitutional: for one, the fee increase didn’t get enough votes from the Oklahoma legislature to pass.
“Fundamentally, this is a constitutional question that affects every Oklahoma taxpayer,” he added, also saying it’s a misguided attempt to reign in illicit sales. “Article five of the Constitution, states that any tax increase has to go to a vote of the people or it has to originate as a House bill [the bill did, and] it has to gain three quarter majority support in both chambers.”
“It did not,” he continued.
Further, while the Oklahoma Constitution states that revenue related bills can’t be passed during the last five days of the legislative session, Green said House Bill 2179 did.
Green said because the much of the industry is based on price point, the fees and accompanying regulations could price out the wrong marijuana operations in the future.
“They make it harder for our legitimate operators to compete against the illicit market,” said Green.
“If the goal of the state is to have our consumers purchase product[s] in a sanctioned consumer tested environment, then they have to work with us to ensure that we can compete on [a] price point against the illicit market,” he said. “These fees are absolutely not needed for the regulation of this program.”
The OMMA said they cannot speak to issues with pending litigation; however, they do expect the Attorney General’s Office to represent them in the lawsuit.