Ever since Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana three years ago, the state has become one of the easiest places in the U.S. to launch a weed business, reports the New York Times. The state now boasts more retail cannabis stores than Colorado, Oregon and Washington combined. In October, it surpassed California as the state with the largest number of licensed cannabis farms, which number more than 9,000, despite a population only a tenth of California’s. The growth is all the more remarkable given that the state has not legalized recreational use of marijuana. With fairly lax rules on who can obtain a medical card, about ten percent of Oklahoma’s nearly four million residents have one, by far the most of any other state.
Fueled by low barriers for entry and a fairly hands-off approach by state officials, weed entrepreneurs have poured into Oklahoma from around the nation. It costs just $2,500 to get started, compared with $100,000 or more across the state line in Arkansas. Oklahoma has no cap on how many dispensaries can sell marijuana, the number of cannabis farms or even how much each farm can produce. That growth has pitted legacy ranchers and farmers against a new breed of growers. Groups representing ranchers, farmers, sheriffs and crop dusters have joined forces to call for a moratorium on new licenses. Adria Berry, director of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, which oversees the industry, reported nearly $138 million in revenue from retail, state and local taxes this year, through November, on the sale of cannabis. Berry says the industry is here to stay and that the state’s marijuana law effectively restrains her agency from limiting the number of new licenses it approves.