Some Rotten Apples May Spoil the Cannabis Industry in Oklahoma
Oklahoma authorities are facing increasing problems with the marijuana industry. Take a drive through any neighborhood and you are sure to pass several medical marijuana dispensaries. Sometimes, there are multiple stores along one street.
The industry has seen astronomical growth since it was approved back in 2018. Because of this unprecedented rise, authorities said that it has become a haven for both entrepreneurs who are chasing the American dream, and criminals looking to take advantage.
According to KOCO News, Oklahoma has some of the loosest laws in the country when it comes to marijuana growing, processing and dispensing.
Unlike other states, there is a very low cost of entry to become an operator in the market. It costs just $2,500 to secure a business license. For comparison, in Colorado, it will cost you about $7,500 and in Arkansas, it costs $100,000.
There are also no caps on the number of dispensaries, individual plants or grow operations. The numbers fluctuate often, but at current check, there are more than 7,500 licensed growers in Oklahoma, which is more than six times the amount of medical and recreational grows combined in Colorado.
"We are the number one source state now for black market illicit marijuana," said Mark Woodward with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. Woodward said that with the perfect storm of a free market, cheap land and a pandemic, Oklahoma quickly became the “Wild West of Weed.”
"Almost overnight, it seems like Oklahoma went from this quiet little experiment to suddenly the marijuana mecca of the United States," Woodward said.
There’s evidence that some of this is connected to international drug trafficking organizations taking advantage of cheap access to foreign capital and finding ways to fly under the radar as they operate. It’s believed that some foreign land owners are growing marijuana and illegally distributing it across other parts of the country.
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said it has been estimated that Oklahoma illegally exports more than 80% of the marijuana that is grown in-state. Oklahoma is now the number one supplier of marijuana in the United States.
But sometimes, the problems aren’t simply about illegal grows. Recently, there has been a rash of business disputes that have hurt honest operators and enriched a few bad actors.
For instance, an Oklahoma cannabis cultivator is suing the manufacturer of his grow-lights, claiming they spontaneously exploded and destroyed his farm.
Another case involves Daniel Salinas, of Grassfire LLC and Midwest Extractions, LLC. In a lawsuit filed December 14, 2022, plaintiffs allege that Salinas owes over $400,000 and transferred assets and misappropriated funds for his personal benefit. The plaintiff, GP Capital Group, Inc, asked the court to appoint a Receiver to manage the affairs of Grassfire pending resolution of all claims.
Another case involves two Oklahoma attorneys, who are facing criminal charges for allegedly helping out-of-state medical marijuana growers skirt a law requiring MMJ companies to be at least 75% owned by state residents.
According to The Oklahoman, the lawyers – Logan Jones and Eric Brown – were charged by the state attorney general with multiple counts of conspiracy, falsifying records, and cultivation of a dangerous substance.
According to one long-time licensed Oklahoma grower, criminal operations and shady characters are hurting legitimate businesses.
"It’s been a really tough fall. It just costs us more and more every day to do what we're doing” Jesse Tischsauser, the co-owner of Red Dirt Sungrown and Sunday Extracts told KOCO. “And then we go out of business and the bad actors continue to do what they're doing.”
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority has responded and released a statement saying, “If we uncover bad actors or illegal operations, we make the appropriate referrals and begin to take the necessary administrative actions.”
OMMA now has a portal so individuals can submit complaints about marijuana operations or bad actors. Complaints about medical marijuana businesses are reviewed by the Compliance Department. Compliance inspectors and/or law enforcement officers from the Enforcement Department may follow up on complaints for further investigation.