‘Ghost Owners’: Oklahoma Becomes an Illegal Marijuana Supply Leader
News 6 - December 20, 2022 7:51 am
OKLAHOMA CITY –
Oklahoma is now a leading supplier of illegal marijuana in the U.S., according to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
Officials said this isn’t just a drug problem but a major safety issue.
“They’re very good at what they do,” Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, said. “They know how to hide their operations. They know how to bury the paperwork.”
To solve a magic trick, you have to know where to look. That’s the mission of Mark Woodward’s office and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
“Billions of dollars are going uncaptured onto the black market,” Woodward said.
Exposing businesses that send illegal marijuana all over the country. They call them ghost owners because they operate under the guise of a medical marijuana business, but the person whose name is on the business has nothing to do with the business.
Woodward’s office is investigating a quarter of Oklahoma’s licensed marijuana farmers. They’ve shut down 200 farms.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” Woodward said.
Woodward said shutting down a farm is not enough.
“These criminal groups can replace those workers and plants within a matter of days,” Woodward said.
Not to mention the plethora of human rights violations against the people who work for these farms. Many of whom are undocumented immigrants.
“They’re promised a better life and then they’re basically working for slave wages and many of them aren’t getting paid at all,” Woodward said.
Violence typically follows these counterfeit operations.
“They know how to make the plants disappear; the money disappear,” Woodward said. “But the concern is they can also make people disappear.”
The solution to this elaborate trick is following the paperwork to reveal the truth.
“We know now what to look for,” Woodward said.
Woodward said the state has lost many legal marijuana businesses because they cannot compete with the black market.
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority released a statement saying, “We’re here to regulate the Oklahoma medical marijuana industry. If we uncover bad actors or illegal operations, we make the appropriate referrals and begin to take the necessary administrative actions.”
“In the coming year, we’re expecting to see an uptick in the number of administrative actions as a result of additional compliance inspectors out in the field, more thorough and improved license processing procedures for identifying ghost owners, and the development of stronger partnerships with enforcement agencies and local law enforcement throughout the state.”