TULSA — The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, along with the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, announced this week they have made hundreds of arrests, seized hundreds of tons of illegal cannabis, and shut down well over a thousand illegal cannabis farms over the past two years.
OBN spokesman Mark Woodward tells KRMG that during the pandemic, organizations from around the country, as well as from foreign countries including Russia, China, Mexico, and Armenia, established black market grow operations in Oklahoma.
They were often aided by Oklahoma law firms, who helped them by posing as “straw owners” to bypass laws barring non-residents from running cannabis businesses.
Two law firms, one based in Oklahoma City, the other in Tulsa, have been indicted by multi-county grand juries in connection with those fraudulent operations, Woodward said.
The profits, he added, can be exorbitant.
Marijuana which costs roughly $100 a pound to grow, can sell for as much as $4,000 a pound on the east coast, he said.
And the criminals involved weren’t simply selling illegal cannabis.
“These criminal organizations are linked to human trafficking, sex trafficking. We’ve shut down several residential brothels that were tied back to women who were trafficked out of China and Japan,” Woodward told KRMG. “We’ve got a quadruple homicide out of Lacey, Oklahoma where Chinese workers were all assassinated.”
And the collateral damage doesn’t end there.
“We’ve had gambling operations, worldwide money laundering, environmental theft, electrical theft - environmental contamination, I should say - water theft,” Woodward added. “It’s driving up property values, and not in a good way, and taxes in counties when people are paying four times what the land’s worth, and paying cash for it.”
The crackdown appears to be having an impact.
“We’ve seen our numbers - our registration numbers - go from 9,400 farms licensed by 2021, and as of October 31st of this year it’s down to 3,200,” he said. “So the days of just flying under the radar, and Oklahoma being the wild west, are over.”