Union City (KFOR) – A traffic stop led Union City police to a SUV filled with illegal weed on Tuesday.
An officer pulled over Kae Saturn for a traffic violation and discovered several large bags in the vehicle, including a container of medical marijuana spilled on the console.
Police said a probable cause search that followed produced 162 pounds of medical marijuana.
However, Saetern did not have any valid OMMA transporter license or commercial license, was not following any of the OMMA guidelines for transporting such a large amount Marijuana and did not reveal that he was associated with any legally licensed commercial Marijuana business.
Saetern was arrested and charged with Trafficking Marijuana and booked in the Canadian County Jail but has since bonded out.
Oklahoma now leads the way in licensed operations across the country, though a recent bill, HB 3208, signed by Governor Stitt in August, 2022, creates a moratorium on processing applications for new dispensary, grower and processor licenses for up to two years.
Mark Woodward, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, said the local bust is part of a statewide crackdown on a black-market pot problem, including foreign and out-of-state investors capitalizing on economical points of entry.
“I think Oklahoma is losing potentially billions of dollars with a “B”, out-of-state to the black market that’s never been captured by the state of Oklahoma because they’re growing here,” he said.
“[Illegal investors] are using our resources, but 100% of the profit is going to criminal organizations that we’ve already linked to Chinese organized crime, Mexican organized crime, a Russian and Bulgarian organized crime that groups in Oklahoma that are running these farms, and they’re laundering the money worldwide,” adding that close to 2000 farms in Oklahoma could be illegally operating through licenses obtained by fraud, black market sales outside the state or both.
“We’ve got to probably close to another 800 that will probably be shut down in the coming months,” he said, adding that many more investigations are pinpointing foreign and out of state investors that are moving operations to the state because of cheap overhead expenses,” he added, citing cheaper land prices, licenses and flexible laws compared to the rest of the country.
Woodward said persistence and new legislation could help protect the state’s rural communities that may otherwise be impacted.
“We have identified contaminated groundwater where they’re dumping pesticide water into local trees and creeks and watersheds. They’re driving up the water prices, they’re driving up the land prices and the taxes in rural Oklahoma because of the size of these farms and how they’re paying cash,” he said.
“There’s a lot of people in rural Oklahoma, not just the marijuana businesses, but also just local citizens who are paying a steep price for what these criminals are doing, especially in the rural parts of the state.”