More than 150 Oklahoma medical marijuana dispensaries have received letters from state regulators notifying owners that they owe thousands of dollars in fines for transactions that do not comply with the state’s medical cannabis regulations. Some providers could also lose their licenses for selling too much medical marijuana in a single transaction, according to a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA).
The letters, one of which has been shared with High Times, notify owners that the potentially illegal transactions occurred between January and May of this year. The correspondence also informs the businesses that a November court date has been set in relation to the alleged violations. Dispensary owner Rob Speight is one of several business owners who say the letter came as a shock, adding that he is unsure how he will afford to pay the fine.
“It is saying that I’m getting charged $5,000 for a transaction that was over the limit of 84 grams,” Speight, who received the letter from OMMA last week, told local media.
He also adds that the letter is lacking in detail and does not contain basic information such as the date of the flagged transaction.
“We don’t know exactly when it was, I’m not saying it didn’t happen,” said Speight. “We don’t make a habit of ever overweighing the legal limit…it’s simple, you just break it up into a second transaction.”
Under Oklahoma’s medical marijuana laws, purchases by patients are limited to 84.9 grams (about 3 ounces) of cannabis flower, 28.3 grams (one ounce) of cannabis concentrate, 72 ounces of marijuana edibles, six mature cannabis plants and/or six cannabis plant seedlings. Transactions that exceed the stated limits are contrary to the state’s regulations and subject owners to fines.
Jed Green, the director of the medicinal cannabis advocacy group Oklahoman’s for Responsible Cannabis Action, met with OMMA officials last week in an effort to gain more information about the letters and alleged rule infractions.
“It has left some of our business owners scrambling. Especially those who truly are compliant…to go back looking for a needle in a haystack of say one potential violation over 10s of thousands of transactions,” Green said. “OMMA has indicated that they will make those violations known… it would be nice if that might have been more isolated up front.”
Green added that technical glitches in the OMMA’s tracking system could be responsible for some of the alleged infractions.
“We talked about the way mathematics were being done in conversion of standard American units to metric units,” Green said. “We were discussing that and wanting to ensure that OMMA was being thorough and that in some of these cases there could be some glitches between multiple software systems.”
The letters note that upon the first violation, offenders are subject to a fine of $5,000. Subsequent violations are levied fines of $15,000. The letter shared with High Times, which was sent to a business owner who wishes to remain anonymous, detailed three violations, bringing the total fines assessed to $35,000. Some dispensary owners fear that the penalties could put them out of business.
“It’s also a crisis to the business owners to get fined so much that it’s shutting people’s door is it’s costing them their livelihood,” said Cynthia Myers, the owner of three dispensaries. “I’ve been in this five years and in November….I don’t have $30,000 to pay a fine on top of raising other permits and stuff, too.”
In a statement to local media, OMMA public relations manager Porsha Riley said that some of the dispensaries that received letters also face losing their license to serve patients.
“As the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, we are responsible for regulating the medical cannabis industry in our state. That responsibility includes upholding the highest standard of compliance,” Riley said in a statement. “Our agency recently filed petitions against 161 licensed dispensaries for sales over the legal limit. Of those 161 cases, 39 seek fines and revocation of licenses; 122 seek fines. Enforcing legal limits on sales is essential to maintaining the integrity of our medical market, preventing unauthorized use or distribution, and controlling oversupply.”
Speight said he faces a court date on November 8 to answer for the alleged violation.
“I have to obtain a lawyer, to go to court, to challenge something that I actually have no idea what, where, or when it happened,” he said.
According to the letters, business owners who have their licenses revoked are ineligible to apply for a new license for a period of five years. Bri Padilla, the executive director of the trade group The Chamber of Cannabis, said that some dispensary owners had reached out for help about compliance before the letters were issued but did not receive the support they needed.
“What is particularly concerning, is that operators and lawmakers in Oklahoma have been asking for support as it relates to seed-to-sale tracking options since before January of this year. Now, we are seeing operators fined, shut down, and otherwise threatened due to potential glitches in software. That is unacceptable and merits inspection,” Padilla wrote in a statement to High Times. “As all Cannabis programs roll out and grow, some hiccups are to be expected but issues of this scope simply should not be happening.” (Full Story)