March is the time of year we have hopefully started the transition from the cold and wintry weather to warmer weather and a quiet storm season.
We are living through a similar transition at the state capitol. Thursday, March 2, was the first legislative deadline of this year’s session, and it couldn’t get here fast enough.
There are so many things to talk about: some good, some bad, and that doesn’t even include all the bills the OBA is tracking. I’ll dive into all of that later in the article.
By the time you receive this month’s Oklahoma Banker newspaper, an important date will have passed. On Tuesday, March 7, Oklahomans will have the opportunity to go to the polls and either approve or reject recreational marijuana in Oklahoma.
Regardless of how the vote goes, I wanted to provide you some information on what will happen or what might have been, all depending o
n the results of State Question 820.
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority is the regulatory agency for Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program. 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 our rules, investigating possible violations of medical marijuana laws and more.
OMMA funding, budget
When SQ 788 passed in 2018, it authorized a 7% excise tax on retail sales of medical marijuana products and sales from dispensaries to patients. It also authorized OMMA to collect fees for license applications. The revenue goes first to OMMA’s authorized budget. Then, 75% of excess revenue from excise tax collections goes into the state’s general revenue, and can only be spent for common education, while the other 25% of excess revenue is apportioned to the Oklahoma State Department of Health and earmarked for drug and alcohol prevention and rehabilitation.
Retail sales are subject to state and local sales taxes. The sales tax revenue goes to local governments, and other parts of the state government. OMMA does not receive sales tax dollars.
SQ 820 creates a state law legalizing recreational-use marijuana for persons 21 or older. Marijuana use and possession remain crimes under federal law. The export of marijuana from Oklahoma is prohibited.
The law will have a fiscal impact on the state. The Oklahoma Tax Commission will collect a 15% excise tax on recreational use sales, above applicable sales taxes. Excise tax revenues will fund implementation of the law, with any surplus revenues going to public school programs to address substance abuse and improve student retention (30%), the general revenue fund (30%), drug addiction treatment programs (20%), courts (10%) and local governments (10%).
The law limits certain marijuana-related conduct and establishes quantity limits, safety standards, restrictions and penalties for violations. A local government may prohibit or restrict recreational marijuana use on the property of the local government and regulate the time, place and manner of the operation of marijuana businesses within its boundaries. However, a local government may not limit the number of, or completely prohibit, such businesses. Persons who occupy, own or control private property may prohibit or regulate marijuana-related conduct except that a lease agreement may not prohibit a tenant from lawfully possessing and consuming marijuana by means other than smoking. The law does not affect an employer’s ability to restrict employee marijuana use. For the first two years, marijuana business licenses are available only to existing licensees in operation one year or more. The law does not affect the rights of medical marijuana patients or licensees. The law requires resentencing, reversing, modifying, and expunging certain prior marijuana-related judgments and sentences unless the State proves an unreasonable risk to a person. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority is authorized to administer and enforce the law.
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Earlier I mentioned we have our first deadline in the state legislature. Any bills filed at the start of session that didn’t get voted out of their respective committee are now dead.
For example, at the beginning of session, we were tracking right at 400 bills. Today we are now tracking 96 bills. We know exactly what bills are moving and, therefore, are not chasing ghosts that don’t exist.
There are several bills we have been involved with from the beginning. Here is an update on where those bills currently are in the legislative process:
SB 669 — Permits the issuance of certain identification documents, including driver licenses, to persons without U.S. citizenship pursuant to the presentation of valid tax info, establishes methods to protect against accidental voter registration. This bill has passed out of committee and is now eligible to be heard by the full Senate. The OBA is supporting this bill along with numerous other business organizations.
SB 836 — Charges Service OK with implementing a program to permit the electronic filing, storage and delivery of motor vehicle certificates of title. This is the bill that will move the electronic lien and title program away from the Oklahoma Tax Commission and place it under the control of Service Oklahoma. Service Oklahoma is the state agency that handles all things digital for state government. We strongly support this bill. SB 836 has passed out of committee and is eligible to be heard by the full Senate.
HB 2776 — Provides for broad adjustments to the Uniform Commercial Code, including requirements for establishing control of electronic chattel paper. This bill is the 2022 update to the UCC – every state is passing this same legislation, and it’s our turn this year. We are very supportive of this bill.
HB 2852 — Creates the Bulk Fuel Transportation and Inspection Act, which establishes certain documentation, notice and compliance requirements with the transportation of bulk fuel supplies. The OBA is supportive of this bill because it makes it a felony to attach or manipulate any unattended payment terminal, also known as “pay at the pump.” This bill has passed the House and will now be assigned to committee in the Senate.
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At the start of this legislative session we were tracking 15 ESG bills. ESG stands for environment, social and governance. These types of bill are being introduced in every state and it just so happens the bills in Oklahoma target financial institutions.
I won’t go into detail on every bill, but I’m happy to report we are now only tracking two ESG bills. We were able to keep 13 of them from advancing out of their respective chambers.
The two that remain are right where we want them and will hopefully die in the opposite chamber. We’ll continue to keep you posted on all these bills, and should anything go haywire, we will be reaching out to you to contact your legislators.
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I realize that all of us aren’t political nerds and love this kind of stuff, but if you are wanting the most current and accurate account of what is happening at the state Capitol I would encourage you to visit www.nondoc.com.
In my opinion, it’s the best place to get your news regarding Oklahoma politics.