AFTON — Since voters approved the use of medical marijuana in June 2018, dispensaries have been opening all over Oklahoma, including in Ottawa and Delaware Counties and all around the Grand Lake area.

And they are fast proving to be quite lucrative and successful ventures.

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority governs the program and is responsible for licensing. Unlike many other states, patients here do not need a qualifying condition, but they must be over 18, have acceptable proof of identity and residency, and a signed form from a certified physician in Oklahoma.

A parent or legal guardian can sign for those under 18, but two doctors must sign those forms and the signing legal guardian or parent must purchase marijuana products.

The state’s medical marijuana sales reached nearly $1 million in December, generating about $70,000 for the state from the sales tax on marijuana, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

Three types of commercial cannabis licenses can be obtained and they take approximately two months to process and cost $2,500 each.

While a dispensary in Miami is currently in the works and scheduled to open soon, called Flying Pig Enterprises, Inc. at 7 N. Main, there are already two in Ottawa County that are open for business and doing quite well.

Higher Health in Afton at the entrance to Monkey Island is one that has become very popular.

“At Higher Health Medical Marijuana Dispensary we hope to provide a comfortable shopping and educational experience for every person who walks through our doors,” said Amber Hallum, who co-owns the business with her husband, Brian.

“Each and every customer is important to us and we are happy to answer any questions that they may have. We are excited to teach Oklahomans about the benefits of medical marijuana and how it can improve their daily lives.

“We understand that every person has a different reason for using cannabis and we enjoy tailoring our interactions to that particular need. For instance, we have people who need pain relief balm for their back pain, people who use edibles to help battle depression or stress, and people who smoke in order to manage the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. We also have people who use cannabis to facilitate daily functioning and social interactions,” she said.

Amber Hallum said she and her husband listen to their customers and provide a solution to their needs.

She said they offer hundreds of options.

“Each of our budtenders is trained on customer service and the endocannabinoid system,” Amber Hallum said, noting that each takes several hours of training in order to understand how the various terpenes and cannabinoids in each product can affect the customer.

“They are also trained on listening to understand and on providing exceptional customer service,” she said. “We are thrilled to see that we have 86 five-star reviews on Weedmaps.com and that our clientele is very happy with the service and products we are providing.

“As a small local cannabis business, we are contributing to the local economy through sales taxes and charitable donations.”

The business made a donation to the city of Grove for a new monument sign and electronic billboard that will welcome visitors to town.

“We have also created 10 jobs for some of the most amazing people in Delaware and Ottawa County,” Amber Hallum said. “And we anticipate adding more jobs in our upcoming processing center as well.”

Another Ottawa County dispensary that has seen their business blossom is Irie Okie in Afton.

“At Irie Okie, we pride ourselves in being 100 percent Oklahoma owned and operated,” said co-owner Dayna Hohmann. “We are a family business; the owners are my husband and myself, Martin and Dayna Hohmann of Afton, and Martin’s brother, Thomas Brown of Fairland,”

“This is our home. We live, work and play in Ottawa County. We have kids and grandkids at Afton schools and being in a position to provide a service to our community means the world to us.

She said she has long been an advocate for medical marijuana and is a patient herself, dealing with fibromyalgia pain and the anxiety issues that come with that diagnosis.

“When medical marijuana became a possibility for Oklahoma I was so excited,” she said. “Just the thought that I would be able to obtain medication that I knew would work was not enough; I also decided that I wanted to be in a position to ensure that there was clean, safe and effective product available, not just for myself, but for our friends and neighbors. With that, the idea for Irie Okie was born.

“We get asked a lot what our name means. Irie is a Jamaican word used for happy and content. It means you are in the best state of being you can be.”

They picked a convenient location for the business.

“It is close to home for us and we felt that being just outside of Afton, Miami, or the Grove city limits would alleviate concerns from those that did not advocate for medical marijuana; we’re not here to make people uncomfortable. It’s been a wonderful experience getting to meet and help so many of our Ottawa County neighbors,” Dayna Hohmann said.

“We take great pride in the products we offer and work very hard to ensure that we provide only the best. Our dispensary manager, our daughter Kristen, spends countless hours researching medical marijuana and speaking with growers and processors to find the best available fully tested, Oklahoma grown and produced products for our patients.

She said it’s convenient for their patients to feel comfortable discussing conditions and needs.

“We talk them through dosing, help them learn to journal the effects and results, and love hearing from them later on how we can better meet their needs,” Hohmann said. “We have been extremely excited with the number of patients that have come back in and told us how much better they are feeling in just the two months that legal product has been available in Oklahoma. It validates all of the hard work that we’ve put in and makes it all SO worth it.”

Hohmann has more than 30 years in the medical and pharmaceutical research field, so she feels she is finally really doing something to help people.

“I’ve gone from trying to move new drugs to the market as quickly as possible to feeling like I am really helping people and providing a needed service, she said.