ARDMORE, Okla. (KXII) – The Oklahoma legislative session opened Monday, and Governor Stitt promised residents that he’d be cracking down on illegal marijuana farms.
With 6,100 marijuana farms currently licensed with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, spokesman Mark Woodward said there’s no doubt that legalization has changed the landscape of the state.
“Noises, lights and smells and criminal activity in Southern Oklahoma,” Woodward said. “So really, over the last 18 months we have really seen an increase in the amount of criminal operators moving to our state and citizens are really concerned about it.”
Woodward said the black market operations frustrate neighbors, other growers doing things the right way, and OBN because often these operations bring in other illegal drugs.
“One of the things that we’ve seen is these criminal organizations are coming to Oklahoma and trying to take advantage of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program to supply the black market,” Woodward said. “There’s other drugs that are coming in to cater to these groups. We’re seeing more ketamine, more fentanyl coming into Oklahoma, and oftentimes it’s by these same groups that are operating these marijuana operations that are nothing more than a front for the black market.”
One proposed bill would increase the cost for a grow license, but Woodward said it’s tricky. The bureau wants to discourage criminals, but not make it harder for honest Oklahomans trying to get into the industry.
“The criminals will continue to pay those amounts so it’s not a deterrent for them,” Woodward said. “It would only hurt the mom and pops who are trying to do it right. So we’re only looking for a marginal increase from $500 to $2,500 to match the OMMA license.”
He said that fee will still be much lower than other states, but the money it raises would fund a full-time marijuana enforcement unit.
Woodward said OBN has shut down 90 illegal grows since April, many part of a larger statewide investigation.
“We’re going to continue to apply pressure to shut these people down and identify these criminal organizations that are trying to hide in Oklahoma, so that they don’t see Oklahoma as a safe haven to come grow marijuana for the black market across the US,” Woodward said.
Over 100 legislative bills about marijuana- both new and some carried over from last year- are up for consideration this year.
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