On this page, we will tell you how Oklahoma became a state where people smoke marijuana.
There are weed entrepreneurs from all over the United States who come to Oklahoma because it has a low start-up cost and less strict rules.
With a history of attracting people who wanted to make money from the land in Oklahoma, a new type of crop is taking over old chicken houses, trailer parks, and fields where cattle once roamed. This crop is called "grass."
The G & C Dispensary is next to a Pentecostal church in the small town of Keota. The smell of marijuana wafts through the air there. Strains with names like OG Kush and Maui Waui sell for $3 a gram, which is about a quarter of what they cost in other states.
Down the road, there is an indoor-farming business near a lot of mobile homes. This is one of about 40 businesses in the town of 500 people. As Logan Pederson, 32, said, "It might look weird but this is where the action is." This year, he moved from Seattle to Oklahoma to work on a small farm for a company called Cosmos Cultivation, which grows plants.
Since the state legalized medical marijuana three years ago, Oklahoma has become one of the easiest places in the United States to start a weed business because it is so easy to get a business license. People in the state now have more places to buy marijuana than in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, all together. At the end of October, it overtook California to be the state with the most licensed cannabis farms, which now number more than 9,000, even though it has less people than California.
The growth is even more impressive because the state hasn't legalized the recreational use of pot. But because there aren't very strict rules about who can get a medical card, about 10% of Oklahoma's nearly four million people have one, which is more than any other state.
Weed entrepreneurs from all over the country have moved to Oklahoma because of low barriers to entry and a hands-off state government. In Arkansas, it costs $100,000 or more to start a business, but it only costs $2,500 to start in Missouri. No one is keeping track of how many marijuana dispensaries can open in Oklahoma or how many marijuana farms there are, nor is there a limit on how much each farm can make. This is a state that has always taken a hard line on crime.
This new breed of farmers and ranchers has clashed with older farmers and ranchers because of how quickly they've grown. Groups representing ranchers, farmers, sheriffs, and crop dusters recently joined together to call for a moratorium on new licenses, and they want it to last for a while. There has been a rise in the price of land, as well as illegal farms and pressure on rural water and electricity supplies, as some of the reasons why. Water is being used in some places where new indoor farms are being built.
But Adria Berry, the director of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, says that a moratorium isn't likely. She says that the authority has made more than $138 million this year, through November, from taxes on the sale of cannabis.
Early on, Ms. Berry said that she didn't like medical marijuana. She says that the industry is here to stay, and that the state law makes it hard for her agency to limit the number of new licenses it can give out.
On the ground, that means that the number of businesses in Oklahoma that sell marijuana is going up and up and up.
His new home was Seattle. He had served in the Army and was looking for a new job when he heard about growing cannabis in Oklahoma earlier this year. The man moved to Keota on his own to run a small, five-person farm, which he said was supplying dispensaries in the state, even though he was new to the business.
It can be hard for people who aren't from the area to adapt to living in an Oklahoma town. At least for the next five years, he said he plans to stay in the state.
Signs of the huge growth are easy to see. There are now towns where there are more dispensaries than food stores, and there are even more of them. And there are now more cannabis farms than wheat and cotton farms. Thousands of jobs have been created in a state that is still one of the least well-off in the country. Supporters of the industry also say that the less harsh penalties for people who have marijuana and other drugs, as well as other changes in sentencing, have lessened the strain on the state's prisons.
As the chief data officer for the company that tracks the cannabis industry, Ed Keating looked at how much it would cost to start a business in Oklahoma and Connecticut, two states with a lot of people. A license to grow marijuana there costs about $50 million. It can cost more than $10 million to buy a dispensary there.
He said that big multistate pot companies aren't usually interested in Oklahoma because the market there is limited and the costs are much higher than in other states. It's like the local liquor store and the local car wash, he said.
Critics say that growers in Oklahoma are producing more marijuana than can be sold in the state and are selling it to illegal markets across the country. This is not the case with local businesses, where the customers are usually people who live in the area.
To make money, growers can make cannabis for as little as $100 a pound, which they can then sell for between $3,500 and $4,000 a pound in California or New York. Because of lower costs for licenses, labor, and land costs, growers can make that for as little as $100 a pound.
If you can move your business to Oklahoma and get away with it, the profit margin is huge. That's what Mr. Woodward said about Oklahoma growers who serve markets outside of the state and federal law.
A lot of farms in Oklahoma have been shut down by the government this year in an effort to cut down on the amount of marijuana sold on the black market. Oklahoma police seized 10,000 marijuana plants, 100 pounds of processed marijuana, and a lot of guns and cash from an operation that had moved from Colorado to Oklahoma. They also found a lot of guns and cash. The operation had moved from Colorado to Oklahoma.
In the next few days, there will be a lot more pressure on people. Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican, wants the federal government to give the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics $4 million this year in direct money to fight illegal drug farms. County and city governments could also set their own limits on how many licenses they could give out. This is what a bill in the State Legislature would let them do.
Recently, lawmakers let the money from marijuana licensing be used to set up a full-time enforcement unit. The state narcotics bureau has hired nearly 20 agents. One more law has been passed that allows the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to hire more than 70 new employees. Most of them will work in compliance and enforcement.
Cannabis prices in the United States have dropped about half in the last six months because more and more people are buying the drug. For some strains, the price has dropped to $800 per pound, down from $1,600 for a pound.
She is the co-owner of Red Dirt Sungrown in Guthrie, a small town north of Oklahoma City, and prices have dropped about one-third this year. As a part of her family business, which also owns a hemp farm and greenhouses for garden plants, she employs 25 people and makes about 125 pounds of cannabis every week.
It was a few years ago that Ms. Tischauer, 46, thought Oklahoma would be the last state in the country to start legalizing cannabis. If we don't do well, it's our own fault. A free market works like this:
She said that even though there is a lot of competition in the market, she thinks the state's cannabis industry is still very young. To put a referendum on the ballot next year that would make it legal for people to smoke marijuana in public, activists have started planning. To help the state's growers, Ms. Tischauser said they could look to meet demand from Texas, which hasn't fully legalized cannabis.
For people who don't like how Oklahoma treats marijuana, that would be a bad move.
A Republican sheriff in the state of Kansas says that "weed smells all over the place, even right here in our office." He points to one of the many licensed marijuana farms in his county, which is across the road from his office and smells like "weed all day and all night." In our state, we're one of the reddest. But our marijuana laws are some of the more lenient in the whole country.