Medical marijuana application portal to go live Saturday
Oklahoma City — Oklahomans who want to use, grow or sell medical marijuana can start turning in their applications at 10 a.m. Saturday, but it's not clear whether they will come in a flood or a trickle.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health expects about 80,000 people to apply for licenses over the course of the first year, but no one's quite sure how many to expect on the first weekend.
Tony Sellars, the Health Department's spokesman, said the application portal is ready to handle heavy usage without crashing, and everything is on schedule for Saturday morning.
“We are prepared in the event there is an opening surge,” he said.
Melissa Miller, communication manager for the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, said staff are working to ensure they are ready to process applications when they get back to work Monday. Eventually, the authority will be a separate entity, but some Health Department staff are pulling double duty for now.
“We're doing everything possible to make sure we're ready,” she said.
The Health Department recently opened a call center for medical marijuana questions, but it's only available Monday through Friday. Tech support will be available by phone or email for problems logging in or using the website.
People who want to apply for a license need a valid email address to set up an account, Miller said. All applicants must have a valid credit or debit card to pay the license cost and processing fee.
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Patients should have electronic copies of the recommendation forms from their doctors ready to upload, as well as their driver's license or another form of identification; a digital photo that clearly shows the applicant's face; and proof of Oklahoma residency. Those who want the lower-cost license for people covered by Medicare or SoonerCare need to upload a copy of their insurance card.
Business applicants need to supply identification documents and background checks for all owners or shareholders.
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has two weeks to either approve the application, reject it, or ask the applicant to provide any missing information.
Tom Bates, interim commissioner of the Health Department, said the Board of Health had authorized the department to start making preparations in April, but many questions remained to be answered after State Question 788 passed in June. The state question allowed the department one month to prepare an application form and another month to get ready to process applications.
It wasn't clear if they could find a contractor who could get a website ready that fast, Bates said, so staff made tentative plans for both paper and online applications. They dropped plans for a paper application after contracting with Complia, which developed portals for other states' medical marijuana programs. It would have been more expensive to offer paper applications because of the need for more employees to handle them, he said.
Bates credited the Health Department staff for their work and thanked the Office of Management and Enterprise Services for assisting with the rollout.
“We couldn't have done it without the great work of our staff,” he said.