“People are too afraid to do anything. The lack of regulation has led people to tiptoeing around.”
There’s just not much she can do for them yet.
Malone’s dispensary opened earlier this month, not long after the state started issuing medical marijuana licenses to hundreds of patients. But Malone, co-owner of Ye Old Apothecary Shoppe in Tulsa, won’t have medical cannabis until at least late November.
Even though state regulations allow dispensaries to start selling medical marijuana as early as Friday, Malone is waiting for her growers and attorneys to give her the green light.
She wants to be sure the process is done right.
“We have a lot invested in this business,” Malone said. “We’re not going to pretend to look the other way, either. … We have everything on the line at this point.”
The simplest answer to when ready-to-use medical cannabis products will be available across the state? As soon as dispensaries have legally-grown plants, said Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority spokeswoman Melissa Miller.
Though many of Oklahoma’s roughly 8,500 patient license holders were hoping to begin buying medical marijuana on Friday, that day likely won’t come for at least another month.
The vast majority of dispensaries won’t have product to sell until December because many business owners are choosing to err on the side of caution in an effort to stay in compliance with state regulations, which lawmakers are still grappling with. Some owners and experts say regulations are vague and confusing.
“We don’t know how long it takes for plants to grow,” Miller said. “But it has to be grown in Oklahoma per the state question.”
Dispensaries also must have their OMMA licenses and Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control registrations. The bureau had registered 45 dispensaries as of last week, a spokesman said.
A team of attorneys is guiding Malone through the system, but she said she hopes the Legislature will put more clarifying guidelines for the industry in place.
“All in all, the regulations are not clear. Period,” she said. “Gov. Fallin not calling a special session for our legislators has caused a lot of delay, and it’s probably going to cost some of us, if not all of us, extra money. We’re just taking it day by day. We need clarification on the legalities and the illegalities.”
She pointed to gray areas that include dispensary inspections, banking issues and zoning laws.
Corbin Wyatt is the owner of The Peak Dispensary, a business franchise with more than 10 locations across the state. The business is awaiting its Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs registration, but stores are expected to have product to sell in mid-November, he said.
Wyatt said the the lack of regulation for medical marijuana has actually created overregulation among business owners. Even the process of legally obtaining seeds was murky.
“People are too afraid to do anything,” Wyatt said. “The lack of regulation has led people to tiptoeing around.”
Bud Scott is an attorney and the executive director of New Health Solutions Oklahoma, a medical marijuana tradegroup formed in 2017. He said businesses are right to err on the side of caution.
“We want to do this right in a state that hasn’t been receptive to it,” Scott said. Legitimate businesses won’t have products on their shelves this week, he said.
His group has called on the Legislature for more regulation over the industry and discourages businesses from trying to beat others to the punch by rushing products onto their shelves. He pointed to businesses from Colorado and California that have tried to sell to Oklahoma dispensaries.
Scott said patients, eager to buy product, have been confused about when it will be available, but that was to be expected.
“Part of the problem with the incredibly rushed timeline we had for the implementation for 788 is it created a level of expectation among patients,” Scott said. “A day after it passed people are going, ‘When can we buy product?’
“There’s a complete lack of awareness and education that this is going to take time.”
Still, it’s likely some businesses will have product this week, Scott said.
“Vape pens and everything else. … It’s very unlikely it would be grown here and processed and packaged and everything else,” he said.
Scott said the state will probably see an influx of patient applications once dispensaries begin to have product.
“We’re hoping to see people act in good faith, not trying to be money grubbers and not ruining it for the rest of us,” he said. “Because that’s what’s going to happen.”
Brandon Phelps, one of the owners of Rooted Zen dispensary in Oklahoma City, said he likely won’t have product until mid-December when the business opens.
“So for us personally, I know the mature plant really goes into effect Oct. 26, with that said we followed every bit of compliance possible. … I think if anyone has available product on the 26th, they probably didn’t follow the regulations too well.”
The confusion hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of patients awaiting medical marijuana products.
Wyatt, owner of The Peak Dispensary, said the business gets more than 100 calls each day. And when he put a test product on the dispensary’s — a flower called Blue Dream — he sold more than $800 of it within hours with no advertising, he said. When the dispensary opens, customers will be able to order online and pick up the product at the store. The dispensary will have a phone app, too.
“We can find a product that fits their (customers’) needs,” Wyatt said. “It’s as convenient as it can possibly be. We’re aiming everything around the idea that our customers don’t know anything about medical marijuana.”
Aron Pasley has a medical marijuana patient license and is an activist for the industry. He said several dispensaries have reached out through social media asking him to be one of the first customers to try their product.
Pasley, who lives in Cement, a small town about an hour southwest of Oklahoma City, took his first tour of Rooted Zen on Thursday ahead of its grand opening in December.
Pasley said he was one of the first patients approved for a license. He’s had two shoulder surgeries that left him in pain and with painkillers that made him nauseated. He will have a third surgery this week.
“I have been in pain management for years, I took opioids for years,” he said. “I just couldn’t take them anymore. They made me feel awful.”
Friday is the date Pasley has been looking forward to.
“If you are on the fence about applying and you’re wanting to wait to see how it plays out, don’t wait,” Pasley said. “Apply (for a patient license) now.”
Your financial support for our investigative journalism is now tax deductible. Click here to become a Friend of The Frontier.