An Oklahoma bill proposes giving medical cannabis excise tax dollars derived from licensed businesses to law enforcement officials to help oversee inspections of those licensed businesses.
House Bill 3530, in part, aims to allocate the first $5 million collected from the state’s 7% excise tax on medical cannabis sales each year to a County Sheriff Public Safety Grant Revolving Fund created under the bill, according to the legislation’s text.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. David Hardin, is part of a bill package that Oklahoma House lawmakers unveiled earlier this month, which includes a 12-point plan aimed at cleaning up the state’s medical cannabis program and combating the illicit market.
As Rep. TJ Marti outlined in a March 7 press conference, one of the points to that plan includes a grant program for sheriffs’ departments that will fund law enforcement efforts in every county. The plan also calls for annual inspections for all state-licensed grow sites, in addition to allowing Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) officials to conduct unlimited inspections of any site.
Specifically, the $5 million in annual funding to law enforcement under H.B. 3530 would provide sheriff’s offices the financial means to have deputies present during OMMA inspections.
Hardin, who vice chairs the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, said March 21 that his bill’s intention is to provide a stop-gap for inspector safety until OMMA can hire its own law enforcement, The Norman Transcript reported.
Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, told the news outlet the bill would help ensure OMMA inspectors are not denied access to perform on-site inspections.
“[Deputies can] be out there at the property when they’re doing inspections to make sure that any criminal elements, that [if] there are any types of violence or threats that are made, that there would be uniformed presence out there with them,” Woodward said.
OMMA inspectors were denied access to 181 grow sites from April 2021 to February 2022, which represented roughly 10% of the authority’s routine annual inspections, The Norman Transcript reported.
OMMA officials reserve the right to revoke licenses of those who do not cooperate with providing access for on-site inspections.
The $5 million grant would be established for fiscal 2023 and thereafter.