OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics said drug agents are cracking down on what they said are criminal organizations taking advantage of Oklahoma’s cheap rural land and loose medical marijuana laws.
The OBN said from September 27th to October 7th, agents executed 10 search warrants in Canadian, Cleveland, Garvin, Kay, Okfuskee, Payne Pontotoc, and Seminole counties.
During that 11-day stretch, agents also seized 79,157 illegal pot plants, 3,139 pounds of processed bud, and 16 firearms. The OBN said 20 people were also arrested.
“They’re not going to get away with what they’re doing,” said Mark Woodward with the OBN.
It was such a large haul, agents called in the Oklahoma National Guard to bring in heavy machinery and manpower.
Woodward said the high-ranking criminals in these organizations are based in Los Angeles, New York, Mexico, and China. All of them have the same M/O. They try to appear legitimate on the surface in Oklahoma, to fly under the radar.
“Hiding behind a license while they’re doing nothing but moving marijuana into the black market around the U.S. and moving millions of dollars worldwide for their criminal empires,” said Woodward. “Some of the biggest people that are suffering from this are the legitimate industry. They say ‘we can’t compete with black market prices.’”
Woodward said the criminals link up with brokers and law firms to bum off someone else’s grower license. They’re known as a “ghost owner.”
“They say, ‘hey, you know, for a couple of thousand dollars, would you mind signing that you’re the owner?’” said Woodward. “And that person may be on 200 licenses around the state. They know nothing about it.”
Woodward said everyone, even ghost owners, will be charged when caught.
Agents aren’t stopping any time soon. Right now, they’re investigating at least a thousand illegal gros and have already shut down around 200 illegal operations, that are taking advantage of what Woodward and some lawmakers said are the state’s loose Medical Marijuana laws.
“The reason that activity here, though, is because the law has created a place for a good market,” said Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow. “I think the folks in Oklahoma thought they were getting one thing and ended up getting something different.”
Rep. McDugle said lawmakers are trying to fix the law one issue at a time and some new bills are already in the works. However, Woodward said there will be challenges, because a judge may say new rules will go against the will of the voters.
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority sent News 4 the following statement:
“OMMA doesn’t comment on pending investigations and court actions. But generally speaking, we work closely with OBNDD and other state and local agencies across Oklahoma to identify and remove bad actors from the medical marijuana industry. The implementation of the Metrc statewide seed-to-sale tracking system this year is the latest tool to improve enforcement in Oklahoma. OMMA appreciates the efforts of OBNDD and all of our partners in keeping Oklahomans safe.”