Oklahoma: The Wild West of Weed, Has New Gunslinger in Town

Redbird Bioscience, a licensed medical cannabis operator that produces pharmaceutical-grade products for patients, is expanding its presence in the Oklahoma medical cannabis market by announcing its completion of a 7,890 sq ft extraction and processing facility in Stillwell, OK, according to Cision PR Newswire. Marcus Moates, named Director of Product Development, will “guide Redbird’s strategic developments in private labeling, toll processing, and flex manufacturing for its own and additional key brands in the state.” 

Bill Thurman, CEO of Redbird Ventures LLC, stated, “With the opening of the facility, Redbird will showcase the power of our growing portfolio and continue to position us to retain the lion’s share of retail sales as the Oklahoma market grows. Marcus Moates’ expertise will be valuable in expanding Redbird’s product offerings while never wavering from delivering safe products in accordance with our high quality and purity standards.”

Source: greengrowexpo.com

Moates, who studied Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at the University of Arkansas and Arizona State University, has an extensive background as an advocate and a business leader in the cannabis industry, including his startup role in Nature’s Lab Extractions, and as an Operational Consultant for MedMen and Flower One. 

The new extraction and processing facility comes on the heels of Redbird’s licensing agreement with performer Jim Belushi and his Oregon-based cannabis company, Belushi’s Farm, to feature its products in Oklahoma. Thurman declared, “RedBird and Belushi’s Farm share a similar mission to provide superior cannabis products to patients as well as a compassionate approach to educating and treating patients with alternatives to highly addictive pharmaceuticals. RedBird will grow Belushi’s Farm products using RedBird premium, lovingly-crafted flower in Redbird’s most popular strains as well as Jim’s favorite strains.”

With a presence in not only Oregon but also in Colorado and  Illinois, Belushi’s expansion into Oklahoma will give him access to its burgeoning medical marijuana market. As reported by MJBizDaily, Oklahoma has more than 2,000 dispensaries – the most in the nation. And the 2021 MJBizFactbook projects medical marijuana sales via dispensaries to “total $900 million to $1.1 billion this year, up some 25% from 2020.” Currently, Oklahoma is well on its way to realizing its tax revenue goals, with receipts through August of this year totaling in excess of $57 billion. 

Competition has become intense among competing brands in marijuana throughout the Sooner State. In fact, according to Oklahoma Watch:

“A price war has broken out on the retail side, with intense competition among more than 2,200 licensed dispensaries across the state. Some sit on the same block of a city street. Oklahoma leads the nation in per-capita dispensaries in medical marijuana states, with 56 per 100,000 residents. Retail sales topped $345 million in 2019, and state tax revenue was $55 million, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.”

This likely has something to do with the liberal nature of the guidelines to obtain a marijuana license. The reality is that there are no real medical qualifying conditions to get a medical marijuana license. State Question 788 (SQ 788), the legislation that legalized medical marijuana in Oklahoma, specifies that  “The State Department of Health will issue medical marijuana licenses if the applicant is eighteen years or older and an Oklahoma resident,” and  “A special exception will be granted to an applicant under the age of eighteen, however these applications must be signed by two physicians and a parent or legal guardian.”

The lax nature of the SQ 788 may shock some people because Oklahoma has a reputation as a fairly conservative state. According to World Population Review, “65.3% of voters voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election, and the state has voted Republican in 15 out of the last 16 elections.” Yet, Oklahomans are fiercely independent, with a libertarian side that is highly distrustful of government, even state government intrusion into personal decisions, including medical issues. 

This libertarian streak was evidence by the fact that the 2016 Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson earned six percent of the vote in Oklahoma while garnering less than 4% nationally. From this perspective, Oklahoma’s approach to medical marijuana is a declaration of a freewheeling, wild west, open-market approach advocated by libertarians. Currently, SQ 788 allows the following amounts of medical marijuana for each person with a license:

  • Up to 8 ounces of marijuana at home
  • Up to 3 ounces of marijuana on their person
  • Up to 1 ounce of concentrated marijuana
  • Up to 72 ounces of edible marijuana
  • Up to 6 mature marijuana plants
  • Up to 6 seedling plants

However, not everybody is on board with this loose regulatory approach. Dr. Larry Bookman, president of Oklahoma State Medical Association, which opposed SQ 788, argues, “We’ve passed a law by our citizens who didn’t really understand it. We have a government that sees it as a cash cow. And nobody’s really looking out for the health of Oklahoma. The whole setup needs to be re-evaluated, but our Legislature does not really want to tackle it.”

To that end, Oklahoma is making some efforts to (HB 2272) tighten up at least the commercial end of the marijuana market. House Bill 2272, which was recently passed into law by the Oklahoma Senate, addresses concerns the legislature has about the intrusion of international criminal elements into the Oklahoma marijuana market.

Specifically, HB 2272 “would require current medical marijuana business licensees and applicants seeking licensure as a medical marijuana business to respectively submit an attestation confirming or denying the existence of any foreign financial interests in the medical marijuana business operation and to disclose such ownership within 60 days to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.” 

Additionally, HB 2275 strengthens the inspection elements of compliance statutes, and would “require the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to schedule an on-site meeting and compliance inspection of medical marijuana dispensaries, commercial grower sites, and processing sites, beginning Sept. 1, 2021, to verify whether the licensee is actively operating or working towards operational status.”

All of the debate and fervor over the medical marijuana laws may be for nothing, ultimately, as Oklahoma is pushing to legalize recreational marijuana. The Oklahoma Marijuana Regulation and Right to Use Act would allow “all persons twenty-one (21) years of age and older to grow, purchase, transport, receive, prepare and consume marijuana and marijuana products,” according to Newsweed.com.

If the act becomes law, Redbird Bioscience and Mr. Belushi will no doubt be positioned to capitalize on what would become an expanded market.

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