Group files lawsuit arguing new fees will hurt Oklahoma's legitimate Marijuana Industry
Oklahoma lawmakers said the goal was to use the extra money to beef up enforcement.
A group of marijuana dispensaries, growers and labs says new fees from the state are going to hurt the legitimate industry, alleging that the fees will total nearly $30 million.
The newly increased license fees went into effect this month. Oklahoma lawmakers said the goal was to use the extra money to beef up enforcement.
The group Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action filed a challenge last week to House Bill 2179. Members said the bill that set up the new license fees is unconstitutional because of the way state lawmakers passed it in 2022.
"We need our lawmakers to stop hitting the good guys. It only helps the bad guys," said Jed Green, with Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action. "What we've seen in other states like California is that those high license fees and those high regulatory overburdens, those duplicate regulations, actually make our business less competitive against the illicit market."
Green, who also works in the commercial-growing business, contends that new fees proposed by the state will put small, legal operations out of business. He also argues that those who stay in business will have to raise prices and drive people to illegal and potentially dangerous sellers.
"Seventy-five percent of cannabis is purchased on price point alone," Green said. "Wherever you can get it the most cost-effectively, consumers are typically going to head that direction."
House Bill 2179 was designed to put additional money toward enforcement and reducing illegal marijuana operations, which is handled by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority.
"We did pull in industry professionals. We had attorneys in the room. We had people present – the mom-and-pop companies or the big companies – all sitting at the table. They all signed off on it. We all agreed to it. We all shook hands on it," said one of the bill's authors, state Sen. Jessica Garvin.
Green contends that the bill is not only harmful but also unconstitutional because it was passed without following the requirements for bills designed to raise revenue. Garvin, R-Duncan, rejects that argument because all the increased money goes directly to the regulating authority.
"I was involved in the process. I know what the governor's intention was, which was simply to increase the rates and the fees in conjunction with what some of the other states were doing around us," Garvin said.
With the challenge being filed on Friday, there's no timeline on when or if the Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear it.