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The state may borrow from cryptocurrency and similar technologies to build its own financial and information network outside of the usual systems — in part to both facilitate legal medical marijuana businesses and to combat illegal ones, members of the House of Representatives said Tuesday.
“This is better than peanut butter,” said Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane. “Even the crunchy kind.”
Humphrey’s House Bill 3279 is the vehicle for the Oklahoma Distributed Ledger Technology Assets Offering Act, and while he acknowledged that he doesn’t understand all the details, he said he is pretty sure of the big picture.
“This has great potential,” Humphrey said. “This is a technology that is coming. I hope we get in front of the train and not in the caboose.”
Two of the House’s more tech-savvy members, Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, and Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City, were split on the measure.
“This bill has a chance … of setting up Oklahoma as a leader in a disruptive technology,” Phillips said. “The bill as written will make a positive impact on Oklahoma. This will make Oklahoma a national leader if we do it.”
Fugate repeatedly questioned provisions he said could set up a contractor or contractors to reap huge rewards from building and operating the network, and he said he doubts that a voluntary system could deliver the benefits proponents claimed.
Distributed ledger technology — also known as blockchain technology — uses decentralized networks of nodes or access points to provide simultaneous access, validation and record updating. It is generally considered more secure than centralized data storage.
Humphrey’s bill would create a system that both offers voluntary digital financial services outside regular banking system regulations — which largely exclude marijuana businesses, legal under state law or not — and is capable of monitoring all aspects of a marijuana business, right down to utility usage and taxes.
Fugate argued that such a system, as long as it is only voluntary, is likely to create more confusion and expense than to bring order to the chaotic medical marijuana industry.
Humphrey disagreed and said the concept has implications for everything from law enforcement to tax collection and business licensing. He said he’s been told it could boost state revenue as much as $300 million.
Phillips said the technology itself could be a moneymaker if the state perfects and patents it in-house.
“We have the federal systems looking at this because it will be the first system created,” Humphrey said. “Florida is looking at this. We are miles ahead of them, and it will put us in a great position to create a new system for the state of Oklahoma and the rest of the country.”
HB 3279 is far from across the finish line. Although it passed Tuesday with relative ease, it must get through the Senate at least once and, because the title is off the bill, it must get through the House a second time before it can reach the governor’s desk.
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I have been with the Tulsa World since 1979. I’m a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. I primarily cover government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365
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