With all the cannabis-induced euphoria surrounding Oklahoma’s Green Rush, it’s easy to get lost in the smoky haze and forget that medical cannabis hasn’t even been legal for three years, yet.
With so much success in so little time, it may seem like our glorious program is invincible, but we have yet to have the opportunity to see how our market reacts to one of the most important factors…time.
Last week, a University of Oklahoma public radio station talked with a local dispensary owner and a couple of cannabis consultants, who see
dank dark times ahead for the nation’s largest per-capita medical marijuana market.
The Good News is the Bad News
Some of the factors that make our program so great — low start-up costs, lax regulation, speedy implementation — may be the same factors that drive the inflation of the economic cannabis bubble, which could pop and deflate thousands of Oklahomans who have thrown their eggs, money and future into the same cannabasket.
Oklahoma City dispensary owner Jessica Baker summarized the quandary for KGOU:
“It says something about people from Oklahoma… that they would just jump into something of the unknown and kind of gamble on it, which is a pretty cool quality,” she said.
But the flip side to Oklahoma’s low barrier of entry for starting a medical marijuana business is the pressure it puts on the market.”
What kind of pressure are we talking? For starters, Oklahoma could soon be producing far more weed than it can smoke —a situation fantastic for patients but fucked for people attempting to make a living selling it.
Look What Happened in Oregon.
With a similar Green Rush mentality, Oregon legalized marijuana with a low-cost, hands-off approach that would make any capitalist proud. As a result, weed production boomed — but with disastrous consequence.
Via CBS News:
Now, marijuana prices here [in Oregon] are in freefall, and the craft cannabis farmers who put Oregon on the map decades before broad legalization say they are in peril of losing their now-legal businesses as the market adjusts.
By 2019, Oregon was growing twice as much marijuana as its people were using. Cultivators were literally burning bales of weed to try to remedy the out of whack supply-and-demand.
This is a situation frighteningly similar to what seems to be developing in Oklahoma, where we are hovering around 10,000 active licensed cannabusinesses, including more than 2,000 dispensaries and around 6,500 growers.
The Writing on the Wall
When the weed we grow isn’t worth the cost of growing it, there will be a lot of Oklahomans losing a lot of money. This was an inevitability in such a loosely regulated market with so many enthusiastic entrepreneurs, but that isn’t going to make it easier for those who invested their entire livelihoods into this industry only to fail spectacularly.
It won’t be impossible to maintain high levels of success (many well-funded operations will), capitalism will do its thing, but Oklahoma’s cannabis industry can’t help but to confront the reality of eating its own.
Local four-named attorney Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish gave KGOU her best advice to survive the inevitable bubble-burst:
“You have people getting into it who don’t understand that the cannabis industry is just like any other business,” she said. “You have to work hard and have a strong business acumen and know what you’re doing.”
Because there are so many growers, Gossett Parrish said they need to zero in on a market to avoid being eclipsed by larger growers that generate a massive supply of product.
So, while it will be a struggle, not all hope is lost! The market may be hyper-competitive, but it will still be possible to thrive for cannabusinesses that carve out a unique space in Oklahoma’s overly-saturated medical marijuana market.
We’ll be cheering them on from behind the bleachers, where we will be sneaking a vape break.