OKLAHOMA: The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) has released it’s latest statistical data for the state’s legal cannabis industry. Below are the latest licensing reports as of this month.
The latest census data release states that there are 3.12 million Black-owned businesses in the United States. Other data confirms that Black women are the fastest growing demographic of business owners in the United States, with almost 2.7 million businesses. In the cannabis industry, the numbers show that Black people account for less than 2% of legal businesses.
The truth is, in an industry that was built off of the backs of Black and Brown people in America, we need help, access, support, and money.
HerBloCO. is a Black women-owned lifestyle brand and cannabis company, based in Oklahoma, founded and owned by: Taronda Ransom and Marne Madison, both Missouri natives with impressive business and cannabis backgrounds. The company started as an idea that the very people being strategically kept out of the cannabis industry could have an opportunity to be in the industry.
Taronda says: “I sat back and thought, this is for us, this for those who sacrificed buying cannabis from our local plug and those who sacrificed being the actual plug. HerBloCO. was founded on the perspective, statement, and mission: ‘for us by us’.”
The initiation of the partnership between Taronda and Marne is described by Taronda: “I knew I wanted Marne Madison on my team as she has been a person who resonated perfectly with the brand and its vision, plus she is a bulldog. I first met Marne in the Missouri market as we both were applying for dispensary licenses in our city, St. Louis, MO. After being snubbed a couple times in rigged lottery application processes, I knew I needed a different approach. I knew she was someone I wanted to add to my team. I added her to my winning transportation license in Illinois, from there decided to bring her on as my COO to make this thing a reality, and the rest is history. Now two years later, post COVID, we are opening our first dispensary with one in the pipeline.”
Taronda Ransom fell in love with cannabis at the age of 14 . She says: “I smoked my first blunt while hotboxing in a NOVA in the back of my aunt’s house.”
While she stopped smoking for a few years while playing sports in high school, soon after graduating, she and cannabis were one again reunited. “While in college, I always told myself I would have a legal cannabis business — but my dream job was to become a corporate lawyer,” she remembers.
Owning a cannabis business became a reality when Taronda moved to California, at the age of 25. “After my first visit to a dispensary in Los Angeles, I knew I could make my cannabis dreams a reality. I have been on a mission ever since,” she said.
Marne was introduced to the smell of cannabis one day while sitting in class next to an upperclassman. Curiosity enticed me to ask my classmate about the perfume she was wearing, I wanted to try it and know more. She says: “At 14 I decided to smoke my first blunt with my peers after school. And since then I have explored my relationship with cannabis and the intricate parts of cannabis sativa L species.”
The strain ‘Blue Dream’ was Marne’s reason to go to Google, to ask why cannabis changed her emotions. She found a lecture that was being delivered by Dr. Sue Sisley at Washington University just a train stop away from her college dorm. That’s where she heard about the endocannabinoid system.
Since that day, Marne says: “I have consumed my life with education and advocating for the plant and representation of the people that were hurt by this controlled substance.” Both women want to see “more of us” in the ownership sector of the industry. Marne and Taronda say: “We can do this! And this is why we started this investment campaign for it to be a realistic investment opportunity for our families and others across the country that want to support a woman owned, black woman owned, LGBTQ-owned company.”
The dispensary will offer on-site experiences to HerBloCo. branded products and fashion. HerBloCo. is dedicated to their consumers having unique experiences that form long lasting consumer relationships and brand loyalty. Their core values include inclusivity, education, and opportunity with a key focus on supporting those who never thought they had a chance of entering the industry.
The dispensary is just outside of Oklahoma City’s largest county, Edmund, in a roughly 1,500 sq ft. facility located in a shopping center. Grand opening is scheduled for March 2023 and HerBloCO. is seeking investors.
Not having a seat at the table created the opportunity for these business owners to build their table and offer seats.
Taronda says, “we are coming for what belongs to us and creating fair shots at success. Many of the people in corporate cannabis racking up millions were part of the creation of the system that frowned upon us consuming it, ultimately driving it to become a Schedule1 drug.”
I asked Marne, what a $100 investment in HerBloCO. looks like for an investor. She responded:
“The investor will receive a ROI by using our investor tools. However, and most importantly we are able to have a reasonable cannabis raise that allows the community to support us and become a part of a grassroots company. Herblo’s core values are instilled in the community and being able to offer an opportunity for family and friends to support us and start to create generational wealth as the company grows is amazing!”
HerBloCO. is raising $50,000 towards the start up costs of the medical cannabis dispensary. The money will go toward security, inventory, and salaries. Using Mainvest, those wanting to invest in and support HerBloCO. can do so by visiting: https://mainvest.com/b/herbloco?inNetwork=true.
There are just under 30 days left to invest. Support comes in all kinds of ways, shapes, and sizes; sharing this article and/or the HerBloCO. Maininvest link is also support.
Veronica Castillo is a writer from Miami, with a pre-cannabis and psychedelics background in insurance and human resources. Currently, she is a resident of the road covering cannabis, psychedelics, and plant-based lifestyles all over the U.S and soon abroad.
Follow her journey on IG: www.instagram.com/vee_travelingvegcannawriter and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vee-traveling-veg-canna-writer/
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Oklahoma voters authorized the state’s medical marijuana program in 2018 with State Question 788. SQ 788 created OMMA and the state laws that launched the industry. It also placed the new medical marijuana regulatory body within the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), which is where OMMA has remained since the state question passed.
OMMA is responsible for processing commercial and patient license applications, providing customer service to licensees and applicants, facilitating the rulemaking process based on state statutes, enforcing rules, investigating possible violations of medical marijuana laws and more.
Since the passage of SQ 788, active patient and commercial licenses in the state have climbed to nearly 400,000. Across the state, the sale of medical marijuana and medical marijuana products has generated over $350 million in excise and sales tax revenue. The Oklahoma Legislature has appropriated nearly $70 million to common education since FY 2020, and the OMMA recently announced a $2 million allocation to an Office of Juvenile Affairs substance-abuse intervention program.
As a stand-alone agency, the OMMA will continue to oversee the issuance of medical marijuana patient and business licenses and carry out all functions related to the regulation and compliance enforcement of the Oklahoma medical marijuana industry.
The legislation was authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City.
“It’s important that OMMA has the ability to meet the ever-changing needs of Oklahoma’s marijuana industry, and separating the authority as a stand-alone agency will give OMMA the flexibility it needs to effectively lead in all facets, including enforcing the laws set forth by the Legislature and investigating any violations,” said Treat. “I’m glad we were able to get this important change across the finish line, which will benefit all legal medical marijuana patients, businesses across the state and public safety. I appreciate my colleague from across the rotunda for his diligence in working on this matter, Senator Rosino for helping shepherd this through the Senate and the Governor for signing this measure into law.”
“Making OMMA a stand-alone agency is necessary to deal with the complexity of regulation and compliance of the expanding medical marijuana industry,” Echols added. “This will help us cut down on the black market that threatens the wellbeing of Oklahomans and properly regulate the legitimate businesses approved by voters.”
After Nov. 1, the Governor will appoint OMMA’s executive director, and the state Senate will be responsible for the appointee’s confirmation.
In addition to current primary duties, the executive director will take over responsibilities designated previously to OSDH Interim Commissioner of Health Keith Reed, such as promulgating administrative rules and issuing agency orders.
“Since its inception, OMMA has made great strides in regulating the medical marijuana industry in Oklahoma,” Reed stated. “I have no doubt that they will be able to serve Oklahomans in an even greater capacity as they become a stand-alone agency. We are committed to working with OMMA to ensure a smooth transition that benefits everyone.”
OMMA Executive Director Adria Berry began her role in August 2021. Since then, OMMA has met the staffing requirements set forth in the 2021 legislative session, transitioned to a new licensing software, prioritized compliance inspections for all commercial licensees, established a strategic plan, mission, vision and values, and is in the process of implementing the state’s first inventory tracking system.
“At the end of the day, our priority is patient safety,” said Berry. “I believe OMMA operating as an independent agency will ultimately allow us to regulate the industry more efficiently, which will in turn benefit patients.”
As a division of the Health Department, OMMA works closely with OSDH-wide services, including human resources, finance, communications, legal and information technology. Preparations for the impending transition include hiring for key leadership and support positions within some of those service areas. Over the next several months, OMMA plans to bring on new staff members to fill these critical roles, allowing for a more seamless transition out of the Health Department.
“I am grateful to OSDH and Interim Commissioner Reed for the support they’ve provided OMMA,” said Berry. “We have a long road ahead of us to prepare for this transition, but we’re ready and looking forward to seeing how this move will positively affect our operations, licensees and Oklahomans.”
OKLAHOMA:The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) has announced a partnership with NCS Analytics to establish a statewide data analytics platform to monitor and regulate commercial licensee operations. The platform will enable more effective regulation of the industry and enforcement of the rules and regulations surrounding the legal production and sale of medical marijuana in Oklahoma.
The NCS Platform is an advanced analytics application that will aggregate and analyze data in real-time from across the supply chain, helping to identify anomalies OMMA staff may need to investigate, including potential diversion, improper financial relationships, or underpayment of excise taxes.
“One of the biggest problems facing the industry right now are the illegitimate businesses,” said OMMA Executive Director Adria Berry. “They’re able to undercut the businesses that are trying to do things the right way, be good neighbors, and survive in this industry. This partnership with NCS Analytics is yet another recent step forward on our path to rooting out the bad actors. Not only will we be able to make data-driven decisions in real time, but we’ll be alerted when data doesn’t add up, signaling potential criminal activity. We’re all eager to get this partnership under way and see what’s really happening in the industry around the state.”
Foundational to the data-driven solutions NCS provides is their Transparency Project, a collaborative effort to increase understanding and awareness of the industry. This data will be shared in an easy-to-understand dashboard that will be available to the public 24/7. The OMMA will curate which data points to include in the dashboard.
“We are very excited about our partnership with the OMMA,” said NCS Analytics CEO Adam Crabtree. “We have long argued that data is the core of responsible and effective regulation and that transparency is the cornerstone of good government. It will be great to show how impactful data sharing really can be. We hope this will raise awareness locally and increase others’ understanding of this rapidly growing industry.”
Once Oklahoma’s inventory tracking system has been implemented in late May 2022, the NCS Platform will work in concert with Metrc, the state’s seed-to-sale vendor, to compile and evaluate the data Metrc tracks, including plant counts, type of product sold at dispensaries by type, licensee numbers and more.
While awaiting Metrc implementation, NCS will be working to aggregate and analyze monthly reporting data and alert OMMA of past or existing anomalies that need to be evaluated. They will also be working with OMMA to customize the NCS reporting and alert tools to ensure the most pressing issues for Oklahoma are addressed first.
To see an example of a customizable dashboard created through the Transparency Project, click here.
Criminal outfits have flooded the country’s most free-slinging, medical market in Oklahoma – a state commonly referred to as the “wild west” of the cannabis industry. Thus, adding another obstacle for small growers. And is anyone truly surprised?
Mark Woodward, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) spokesman, dissected the cause of this recent uptick in crime when he said, “We didn’t really have these issues until this April. COVID affected a lot of people, the business licenses here are cheap, the land is cheap, it was just the perfect mix for these criminal operations to start popping up all over – buying up all of the land almost overnight.”
Oklahoma narcotics agents have raided three dozen grows – containing anywhere from 20,000 to 60,000 plants, in the past few months, according to Woodward. This sudden surge of criminal activity is being noticed throughout the state’s medical marijuana industry.
“The biggest thing we have to worry about is making sure the weed we buy is legal and has legit paperwork to back it up,” said Kobe Adams, part-owner of the Native Rootz Dispensary in Caddo County. “A lot of these illegal grows are just shipping their product across state lines or using illegal paperwork to sell their weed, which drives the price down for the entire market. It really floods the market for growers.”
Legal cultivators statewide already encounter numerous challenges, such as strong competition from rival businesses, as well as cumbersome and costly regulation. Jodie Klinglesmith, a Western Oklahoma craft grower, is annoyed by what black market operators are able to avoid.
“We legal cannabis growers are following every law and regulation that pops up,” Klinglesmith said. “Meanwhile, spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars just to make sure we all stay in compliance. For example, our seed-to-sale software, our tags, our license fees; and these are all of the things that the black market scoots around … The black market crooks are trucking product all over and selling it for cheap.”
Illegal operations are reportedly making as much as $4,000 per pound on shipments to New York, Woodward claimed. An average pound of weed in Oklahoma sells for $1,500.
The presence of the black market has also contributed to a further divide between legal players and OBN. “Every day is not a guarantee,” said Donald Gies, an Oklahoma City attorney. “You can play by the rules and still get raided.” In early August, OBN agents raided the farm of a grower represented by Gies, who claimed damages from the raid were in excess of $10 million. Agency authorities later admitted there had been a mistake, prompting Gies to warn, “If I’m the small grower, my biggest concern is not getting my plants stepped on.”
Woodward, however, is adamant his agency is supportive of the legal sector. “We really want the legal operators to know that we’re not on some kind of witch hunt to take them down,” he stressed. “We want to take down these very serious criminal organizations that harm the legal growers, and our consumers.”
Black market cannabis, meanwhile, will continue to hit growers in the pocketbook. Untested weed could also potentially infiltrate dispensaries statewide through forged paperwork. All of which has prompted Klinglesmith to simply conclude, “Black market weed just sucks.”
OKLAHOMA:The Choctaw Nation Tribal Council held a Special Session on April 20, 2021, and voted to amend its Public Health and Safety Code regarding medical marijuana. The amendment will be automatically repealed on Nov. 13, 2021, and other legislation will be adopted. The amendment passed by an 11-1 vote.
Following the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruling in the Sizemore case, applying the McGirt decision to the Choctaw Nation reservation, state-issued medical marijuana cards or business licenses were not recognized by the Choctaw Nation laws. Without an amendment, Native Americans in possession of a valid state medical marijuana license, within the Choctaw Nation reservation, could have been arrested and charged for marijuana-related offenses in tribal court. In November, Tribal Council will pass a new code covering medicinal marijuana or an extension of this temporary measure, otherwise the permitted use of medicinal marijuana within the Choctaw Reservation will expire.
In discussion of the amendment, Tribal Council indicated that their intent is to research this issue further and propose better rules and regulations concerning medical marijuana for Native Americans within the Choctaw Nation reservation that minimize misuse of medical marijuana.
For more information on the Choctaw Nation Tribal Council, including the full text of the measures passed in the session, please visit https://www.choctawnation.com/government/tribal-council/council-meetings-and-bills.
OKLAHOMA: Oklahoma State Department of Health Commissioner Lance Frye is naming Dr. Kelly Williams the Director of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. Williams is a lifelong Oklahoman with a Psychology degree from Oklahoma City University and both a Masters and PhD in Quantitative Psychology from the University Of Oklahoma. Prior to joining the state, she was Oklahoma City University’s Institutional Research Director.
Dr. Williams joined the OMMA in February of 2020 as Deputy Director and was named Interim Director in August. Her background in analytics has helped to make the agency highly productive in an ever changing industry. She has increased compliance activity with the advent of the Quality Assurance Lab and the recently announced Seed to Sale tracking system that will be implemented in the coming month.
“We are working on a variety of initiatives to address industry, patient, and regulator concerns. In the year I have spent at OMMA, I have been learning about the agency and the industry in order to set some goals for the agency and to move it forward.” Dr. Williams added, ”I work with a wonderful team that is deeply committed to patient safety.”
Dr. Williams follows former Director Travis Kirkpatrick, who now serves as a Deputy Commissioner of Health. He also praised Dr. Williams and her ability; “This program has seen exponential positive growth and change which I know will continue under Dr. Williams’ direction. I trust her leadership skills to work with the talented staff and implement the changes necessary to balance public safety and business continuity as we take the next transformative step forward for the nearly 400,000 licensees we serve.”
The new emergency rules contain changes for reporting, testing standards and the contents of the laboratory Certificates of Analysis. The rules and a summary are available on the OMMA website. The rules reflect our latest efforts to help build a safer industry for businesses and patients in our state
The new rules are effective immediately and can be found at https://omma.ok.gov/rules-regulations.