Oklahoma: Foreign Investors Concerns and Crime as Cannabis Booms

BY: Chronic Staff | Recent News | Published July 12, 2021

Law enforcement officials and some lawmakers contend that a good deal of product is being illegally transported out of state for street sales.

There are stories about people showing up with bundles of cash and paying way beyond market rates for farmland that is converted to marijuana production in fenced compounds. There are even new pickup trucks seen on the rural Oklahoma roads.

Rep. Josh West, R-Grove, said in an estimate that 60% or more of the state’s marijuana production is sold illegally.

In order to be sure, not all grow operations in the rural Oklahoma farmlands. There are a hundred hidden repurposed industrial buildings in the major urban areas. Although they do not attract attention, rural growth does. This is creating a lot of tension in their districts.

“You have large marijuana grows going across our state in rural areas,” said state Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee. “The appearance is that there’s a lot of foreign interest in those grows. The concern is that there is organized criminal activity involved with them.”

Most believe that stories are exaggerated and they may also be encouraged by those still largely opposed to legal marijuana in the hopes of switching public opinions in their favor. Some stories are true though. An example is a 30-acre parcel with a 1,800 square-foot house between Bartlesville and Tulsa that was on tax rolls for $132,600 was sold to a marijuana-growing operation last November almost triple the price.

On the other hand, by State Question 788, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana laws tried to favor small, local operators by limiting out-of-state ownership stakes by setting license fees low and putting a cap on the number of business licenses that can be issued.

“You’ve got the cartel; you’ve got the Chinese drug ring; you’ve got the biker gangs. Pretty much every criminal organization is operating in the state of Oklahoma right now,” West said.

None of that is good for the legitimate growers, processors, and retailers who are trying to follow the rules. This is one reason some legislators are still trying to make the state’s medical marijuana laws work, even though there was and remains widespread opposition in state government to SQ 788.

This brings the Oklahoma Tax Commission to collect and audit medical marijuana taxes including more than 60 field inspectors to handle enforcement giving OMMA the upper hand on the matter such as inspections and product recalls.

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