Chip Baker, an hour east of Oklahoma City, examined a wide field on the fringes of an ancient hay farm on August 9, 2021, and said, “This is very likely the world’s largest collection of Squirt!
Baker would be the one to know. He’s been all about cultivating pot since he was 13 years old when he established his first marijuana plant. A vision he saw in the Georgia fields led him to Humboldt County, California, the country’s first marijuana hub, and subsequently to Colorado, the country’s first recreational market.
True cannabis cowboys, including droves of Colorado entrepreneurs like Baker, are buying huge estates to grow mammoth numbers of plants, all in the pursuit of mammoth stacks of kush-derived cash, along a dusty dirt road along the banks of the North Canadian River in rural Oklahoma.
The Sooner State, which is as red as the American political spectrum gets, has practically overnight become the fastest marijuana-growing state in the country. It’s a first-of-its-kind study of what occurs when the government gets out of the way and allows the free market to take its course.
And Colorado firms are pouring money and expertise into the state, expecting to profit from what Baker and others in the industry refer to as the “next green rush.”
Oklahoma is perhaps America’s most improbable stronghold of bud, a law-and-order paradise that pushed the war on drugs to its nadir and still imprisons a greater percentage of its population than every state but Louisiana, he added.
Unlike most other heavily regulated cannabis markets, Oklahoma has no restrictions on how many plants you may cultivate or how many cultivate or dispensaries you can open. As a result, Oklahoma now boasts the highest number of medicinal cannabis patients per capita in the US. Three years after legalization, the state has seven times the number of producers and double the number of dispensaries as Colorado.
The flip side of this wild west atmosphere, according to Oklahoma law enforcement authorities, is a state swamped with individuals eager to take advantage of the new rules, including some moving from Colorado.
Illegal growers, they claim, are setting up business in rural regions, forcing their workers to live in deplorable conditions and transferring their produce out of state for huge profits. Meanwhile, the land is selling for five times its original cost, with eager farmers paying cash.
In Arkansas, however, a licensing fee of $100,000 is required, along with a $500,000 performance bond. An application costs $10,000 in New York, with a $200,000 registration fee.
The cost of a first recreational or medical shop license in Colorado is around $7,500, and renewing that license every year would cost an operator thousands more, depending on how many plants they want to cultivate.
Then there’s the “finding of appropriateness” charge, which is a state check to ensure that someone is legally permitted to operate a business. That’s an additional $800 per employee or $5,000 for a publicly-traded firm. Not to mention the local costs, which may add up to hundreds of dollars each year on top of the state expenses.
Meanwhile, cities and counties in Oklahoma aren’t able to ban dispensaries or grow operations, which is a significant difference from states like Colorado, where the substance is still prohibited from being sold recreationally in many local authorities despite its legality.
As per the Marijuana Policy Project, almost 376,000 Oklahomans hold medical marijuana cards, accounting for roughly 10% of the state’s population. This is by far the largest percentage in the US.