Nestled between Pennsylvania and Meridian avenues, ZIP code 73107 has shown a propensity towards growing numerous cannabis businesses. It currently hosts as many as 94 licenced businesses specializing in the distribution of medicinal marijuana. This far exceeds the number of such establishments in any other place in Oklahoma.
August saw the number of legal cannabis growers soar over 6,500. Many of them carry quite apt monikers, such as the Bakedrey or Blunt Solutions. This particular area, however, has the densest concentration of these businesses in the State. So why does it draw in so many enterprises of this sort?
Low rent seems to be a very compelling argument. Top Shelf Dispensary’s co-owner,
Jacob Gorman, has suspected that the area’s gradual gentrification has led it to become more attractive to businesses. But it’s still in an upswing, meaning that rent prices are still relatively low.
Gorman added that businesses appear quickly and disappear even faster. Evidently, new locales either open up or old ones shut down every week. Seeing that the area holds a dense population of these establishments, competition is expectedly fierce. And many marijuana dispensaries frown at the idea of having to lower their prices to match the competition.
The pressure mounts so much that some cannot endure it. Green Box Dispensary owner, Doris Cole, confessed to thinking about quitting the business several times. But there are other problems facing the industry. From complex regulations to a 7% tax rate on all marijuana-related products, persevering is difficult.
As such, many of the venues open today will likely not last long. Those knowledgeable about the business expect the majority of them to wind up penniless in the near future. In their opinion, the ones who invested their entire livelihoods during the Oklahoma boom will be the first ones to flop.
Cole stated that those who’ve created the regulations do not have an accurate vision of the real situation. Thus, she predicts that losses will be heavy in the industry in Oklahoma. One of the greatest threats looming over these businesses is corporate takeover.
The Obama Administration’s former senior adviser on drug policy and current Smart Approaches to Marijuana president Kevin Sabet agrees with this notion. He believes that tobacco, pharma, and beer industry titans have locked their sights on the little cannabis establishments. And they are involving themselves in the marijuana industry with concerning speed.
Sabet condemns the move by industry giants to squash the small independent dispensaries. He sees it as a misdirection of motive, calling it more about money in the corporations’ eyes than the healthcare. This is an opinion one will often hear among cannabis business owners.
Zack Lawhon, a licenced grower in the area, eagerly mirrors this perspective. His primary concern is that massive companies will slam down on the dispensaries. And their seemingly endless resources in comparison with the dispensaries will make it easy to do so.
Another concern is that federal-level decriminalization could lead to this worrying trend picking up more steam. Lawhon particularly dreads what big pharma could do. His fear is that it could create steep regulations that make it impossible for small-time entrepreneurs to keep lockstep with it.
All that said, marijuana boutiques will still exist as a concept even in the face of corporate domination. Lawhon compares it to the existence of organic grocery stores and supermarket chains. Some will always prefer the former, making it a necessary part of the market.
Apropos of that, the market for marijuana is still nascent and subject to volatility. While it is indeed saturated, rising demand will stretch it to its limits. As with all bubbles, this one must also pop.
Opposition to the legalization of marijuana, on the other hand, have called this cluster of cannabis suppliers in ZIP code 73107 problematic. Their argument is that their presence might drag the economic standing of the area down significantly.
Smart Approaches to Marijuana has already forewarned of such a fate for the area. Sabet recalled feeling shocked when he visited Tulsa. He saw many similarities to Colorado, he said. According to him, dispensaries usually thrive in low-income neighborhoods. Furthermore, he argued that their economic contribution leaves much to be desired.
While Smart Approaches to Marijuana stands against marijuana becoming legal, the nonprofit does state that it opposes the incarceration of those carrying minor amounts of the substance. Their preferred solution is that marijuana receives approval from the FDA and become available at pharmacies.
While sympathetic with those who require the substance, Sabet feels having so many dispensaries is unnecessary. He finds it preferable to have doctors prescribe marijuana than to see it easily purchasable.
The reason why medical marijuana dispensaries came to be is deception through advertising, Sabet posits. In his words, the main motive was never to alleviate nausea in those undergoing cancer treatment. But the clever wording of the issue, such as calling it “medicinal” marijuana, has created the idea that the entire enterprise revolves around providing treatment, rather than outright recreational purposes.