This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The Special Operations Team of District 23 said investigators seized and burned more than 3,500 marijuana plants near Shawnee, Friday.

A former dispensary owner said these illegal operations have made it harder for legal growers, and said it’s crimes like these that are driving legal operators out of the business.

“It’s something that has to be done,” said Kent Malave, a former dispensary owner.

Photo goes with story
Seized marijuana.

The Special Operations Team of District 23 said the plants seized at the illegal grow house, near Waco and Coker Road, were worth more than $1 million. Investigators said they also seized eight guns and $22,000 in cash.

District Attorney Alan Grubb said the grower was not in compliance with the law. Legal cannabis growers/businesses are required to have an Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics license and an Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority certificate.

At the crime scene.

Kent Malave, a former dispensary owner, said illegal cannabis growers and businesses are driving people like him out of business. He said the criminals can afford to sell their bud for cheap because they don’t have to make up for expenses like fees, taxes and licenses. Malave said legal growers can’t compete and still make a profit.

“It’s just not enough,” he said. “I couldn’t keep enough employees in there. The margins were so small. We’re just not making any money.”’

Malave jumped into the industry at the beginning, believing in the power of the flower. He said if patients are buying illegal weed, they may have no idea what’s in it.

“You don’t know if it has pesticides and you have people taking it that require precise dosages and precise types,” Malave said.

Photo goes with story

The former dispensary owner fears without more crackdowns the industry will get dangerous.

“If it’s strictly a profit margin and you’re back to cartels and drug running, and that’s not where we want to be,” he said.

Pottawatomie County District Attorney Allan Grubbs agrees. In a statement to KFOR he says, “With the illegal grows we face environmental concerns, such as chemical runoff, safety of public electric and water infrastructure, safety of the patient with illegal, improperly, untested product being introduced to the legal system.”

Photo goes with story
The allegedly illegal marijuana grow operation.

In the meantime, Malave hopes for a crime-free industry to help patients.

“It’s effort, it’s time, and we help a lot of people. We do it because we see the difference,” he said.

The District Attorney’s office said so far there have been no arrests in the latest illegal grow bust.