PRAGUE, Okla. (KFOR) – Decades after Misty Novotny’s parents brought a sprawling piece of land in Prague, they say a marijuana grow operation across the street has turned their dream home into a nightmare.
“My parents bought their land many years ago and built their dream home on it, along with many other neighbors, only to be stuck inside [of their homes] because the air quality is unbreathable,” said Misty.
“My mom’s had a terrible cough for quite a while now, and I thought maybe it was because of her open heart surgery,” she said. “But the more I was here, the more I thought, ‘Well, I wonder if it could be just the air quality. What’s being pumped out of the grow house?'”
“It’s been hard to breathe and the smell’s been just horrendous,” she added, wincing. “[It’s] like you’ve literally been sprayed by a skunk.”
Novotny and other neighbors say the once serene community several miles off I-40 in Prague is threatened since the grow house property set up shop nearby after 2020.
They’re now concerned about a host of occupational and health hazards, including standards and compliance, water quality and contamination, in addition to sheer annoyances about the toxic smell.
“They dump in the water on my place,” said another neighbor, Randy McKee. “And last year I had a big fish kill in my pond, I don’t know what that had anything to do with it, but I had fish everywhere on the pond dead,” he added. “It’s nasty and not in compliance.”
Concerns around the dangers of cannabis emissions is not new.
Research citing the potential impact of the industry on air pollution has mounted steadily as the drug has grown in both prevalence and popularity; more recent studies have similarly associated secondhand exposure to marijuana smoke to a host of health effects and ecological hazards.
In an email to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality to confirm those concerns, the state agency said it was not “actively engaged in determining possible emissions at marijuana grow houses.”
Representatives did cite a need for permits for certain marijuana grow houses, typically related to waste streams and proper disposal of wastewater, as well as a general permit for the properties.
Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Authority also released a statement on the issue, telling the station that there are guidelines for licensed growers to protect air quality.
“While our rules do not speak to air quality specifically, we urge all licensed growers to follow recommendations from their local municipality and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality,” stated Public Information Officer Porsha Riley in an email.
In an interview with KFOR Wednesday, the group cited additional concerns, notably worry over unusual nighttime activity, including large trucks seen leaving the property.
They believe they’re indicators that the operation may not be a licensed grow facility.
Novotny said late Wednesday that the group reached out to their local congressman, and hope state officials will formally investigate the activity.
“We just want this place investigated and brought up to standard…not grow something that’s going to, in the end, harm our soil, harm our air and harm our water,” she said.
“I ain’t got nothing against nobody having free enterprise if it’s done right,” added Randy. “But if it’s not done right, they need to shut them down.”