Oklahoma new to budding medical marijuana industry

01/27/2020 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Marijuana of different varieties is available at dispensaries across Oklahoma. In 2018, Oklahoma voters approved medical marijuana. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Prices for marijuana flowers and other products are seen at J & J Buds and Dispensary in Tulsa. There are more than 2,000 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Oklahoma. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Marijuana flowers adorn the shelves at Nectar Dispensary in Tahlequah. Oklahoma, with more than 220,000 patient licenses approved, is one of 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TULSA – Resolute that cannabis eased her pain and involuntary muscle contractions brought on by a disorder called dystonia, Jamie Casey and her family joined Oklahoma’s fledgling but burgeoning medical marijuana industry.

“This is my medication,” said Casey, a Cherokee Nation citizen who runs J & J Buds dispensary in Tulsa with her husband, brother and daughter. “I don’t take my Xanax anymore. I don’t take my blood pressure medication anymore. I quit taking the shakiness medication. I quit taking everything.”

Casey’s dispensary is one of more than 2,000 licensed by the state since medical marijuana was legalized in 2018.

“A lot of people, they research us online before they even come in,” Casey said. “We get a lot of phone calls and a lot of foot traffic.”

Oklahoma, with more than 220,000 patient licenses approved already, is one of 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana.

In June 2018, 57% of Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788, which legalized marijuana for medical use based on a physician’s recommendation.

“It was an exciting moment and I was pretty overwhelmed with emotion,” said Merle “Cate” Fritz, a Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen from Tahlequah who helped advocate and gather signatures for marijuana petitions since 2015. “This is still totally new to Oklahoma. But you know, they used to make medicine out of cannabis back in the old days, and here we are again.”

Marijuana dispensaries have since dotted the Oklahoma landscape. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority – created to oversee the program – lists 2,259 licensed dispensaries. Oklahoma City is home to nearly 500, according to OMMA, while Tulsa has attracted 270 competing for business.

“We’ve only been open a couple of months,” Casey said. “We get all walks of life, but the majority of what we’re getting in here right now is the elderly.”

The city of Tahlequah is home to 21 dispensaries and 35 of the 5,500 growers statewide, according to the OMMA.

“It was a business opportunity,” said Chance Adams, who co-owns Nectar Dispensary in Tahlequah with his wife, Jade. “It made sense for us. But I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for about 15 years. I’ve known and come across a lot of people that were self-medicating and seeing some really good results – coming off opioids, antidepressants, treating PTSD, things of that nature.”

For some, benefits from marijuana products outweigh the side effects and costs associated with prescription drugs.

“I had taken all kinds of medications,” Casey said, “but hated the side effects to them. It made me gain weight. It made me, I don’t know, kind of a crazy person sometimes. So it was mainly the side effects and the cost. The benefit I get from (marijuana) is the shakiness in my hand dissipates, and a lot of times if I come across the right strain … it will definitely make all my shakiness go away.”

Fritz, who noted that she’s also “not a fan of prescription drugs,” said “there are side effects from cannabis too, but it’s mostly just sleepy or hungry.”

“I’ve always been an advocate for marijuana,” she added. “It was always something I was interested in and knew could help people. But there’s still a huge stigma on it. So, it’s challenging to break that and educate people.”

Fritz said she’s made it a point to learn even more about medical marijuana via structured programs and research.

“I’m really trying to educate myself so I can personally feel better and help other people feel better,” she said.

Oklahoma assesses a 7% excise tax on medical marijuana in addition to state and local sales taxes. The state’s share goes toward running OMMA.

According to the nonprofit Oklahoma Watch, medical marijuana generated more than $34.5 million in tax revenue through the end of September.

Medical Marijuana Buzz Words

In the world of medical marijuana, newcomers are often faced with a barrage of associated terminology. We’ll help you learn some of it.

Cannabis: Derived from the cannabis plant, cannabis’ main active ingredient is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, a part of the plant that produces the “high.” There’s “a wide range of THC potency between cannabis products,” according to a University of Washington report.

“Cannabis is used in three main forms: marijuana, hashish and hash oil,” the report states. “Marijuana is made from dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. It is the least potent of all the cannabis products and is usually smoked or made into edible products like cookies or brownies.”

Marijuana: Marijuana contains mind-altering compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, as well as other active compounds such as cannabidiol, or CBD, that are not mind-altering, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes marijuana – also called weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane and other slang terms – as a greenish-gray mixture of the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa.

“Some people smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints; in pipes, water pipes (sometimes called bongs), or in blunts (marijuana rolled in cigar wraps),” the institute says. “Marijuana can also be used to brew tea and, particularly when sold or consumed for medicinal purposes, is frequently mixed into foods (edibles) such as brownies, cookies or candies. Vaporizers are also increasingly used to consume marijuana.”

THC: Commonly referred to as simply THC, tetrahydrocannabinol is a natural compound found in plants of the Cannabis genus.

“THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation,” health information provider Health Media Inc. states on its website. “It can be consumed by smoking marijuana. It’s also available in oils, edibles, tinctures, capsules and more.”

WebMD says that THC and cannabidiol (CBD) are in both marijuana and hemp, but “marijuana contains much more THC than hemp, while hemp has a lot of CBD.”

CBD: Cannabidiol or CBD oil “seems to be available almost everywhere,” according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

“It has the same values as marijuana as far as the medical side,” Gary Gann with J & J Buds and Dispensary in Tulsa said, “like aches, pains, headaches.”

Harvard Medical School says that while CBD is a component of marijuana, by itself it does not cause a “high.”

Tahlequah dispensary owner Chance Adams said that since CBD is federally legal, “you can purchase it pretty much anywhere now.”

“CBD has a little more therapeutic properties for some elements,” he said. “THC is better for others. Then they have a synergistic effect whenever they are taken together.”

Hemp: Hemp and marijuana are both classified biologically as cannabis, but there are important differences.

“The psychoactive effect, you don’t get that with the hemp that you do with the marijuana plant,” Cherokee Nation citizen and dispensary owner Jamie Casey said. “But it still has benefits.”

The website whatishemp.com describes hemp and marijuana as cousins rather than siblings. “It’s true that taxonomically, both hemp and marijuana are derived from the same plant species: Cannabis. The key difference is that hemp contains exponentially less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the resinous compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive effect – than pot. It also holds higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which mitigates psychoactive effects.”

At the federal level, hemp has to contain less than 0.3% THC to be sold legally.

Terpenes: Terpenes are natural compounds that give cannabis its distinctive smell.

“Terpenes are found in all foods,” marijuana advocate Merle “Cate” Fritz, of Tahlequah, said. “They are what gives your food flavor and aroma. The different terpenes in cannabis are also found in different foods we already eat.”

Tincture: According to healthline.com, tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts. With cannabis tinctures, “it’s a liquid drop you actually put in your mouth,” Gann said.

The world’s largest cannabis website, leafly.com, says cannabis tinctures are also known as green or golden dragon.

“With a name like ‘green dragon,’ you might think cannabis tinctures are not for the faint of heart, but they’re actually a great entry point for both recreational and medical users looking to ease into smokeless consumption methods,” the leafly.com website states.
About the Author
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late  ...
chad-hunter@cherokee.org • 918-453-5269
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late ...


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