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Marijuana Entrepreneurs Flocking To The Bible Belt For Low Taxes

Jessica Baker takes a cutting of a plant at the Baker’s marijuana nursery at Baker Medical on Feb. 26, 2020, in Oklahoma City. When voters in conservative Oklahoma approved medical marijuana in 2018, many thought the rollout would be ploddingly slow and burdened with bureaucracy. Instead, business is booming so much cannabis industry workers and entrepreneurs are moving to Oklahoma from states with more well-established pot cultures, like California, Colorado and Oregon. – AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

OKLAHOMA CITY — From their keen taste for sun-ripened pot to their first meeting at a pro-marijuana rally in college in the 1990s, everything about Chip and Jessica Baker fits the stereotype of cannabis country in Northern California, where they lived for 20 years.

Jessica, with wavy hair that falls halfway down her back, is a practicing herbalist, acupuncturist and aromatherapist who teaches classes on the health benefits of cannabis. Scruffy-bearded Chip wears a jacket with a prominent “grower” patch and hosts a marijuana podcast called “The Real Dirt.” They started their pot business in rugged Humboldt County when it was the thriving epicenter of marijuana cultivation.

But the couple bid goodbye to the weed-friendly West and moved somewhere that might seem like the last place they would end up — Oklahoma.

They’re part of a green rush into the Bible Belt that no one anticipated when Oklahoma voters approved medical marijuana less than two years ago. Since then, a combination of factors — including a remarkably open-ended law and a red state’s aversion to government regulation — have created such ideal conditions for the cannabis industry that entrepreneurs are pouring in from states where legal weed has been established for years.

Though 11 states have fully legalized marijuana for recreational use, Oklahoma’s medical law is the closest thing to it: Anyone with any ailment, real or imagined, who can get a doctor’s approval can get a license to buy. It’s not hard to do. Already, nearly 6% of the state’s 4 million residents have obtained their prescription cards. And people who want to sell pot can do it as easily as opening a taco stand.

“Oklahoma is really allowing for normal people to get into the cannabis industry, as opposed to other places where you need $20 million up front,” said Jessica Baker.

The Bakers have a marijuana farm about 40 miles from Oklahoma City, along with a dispensary, nursery and gardening shop in a working-class part of town where virtually every vacant shop and building has been snapped up by weed entrepreneurs in the last year.

When he leased his place, which had been vacant for 10 years, Chip Baker said, “to celebrate, the owner went to Hawaii for a month.”

Unlike other states, Oklahoma did not limit the number of business licenses for dispensaries, growers or processors.

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Sean Murphy (AP) on The Sentinel-Record

Published: March 08, 2020

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