Woodward County Commissioners did not vote for acknowledgments of the two applications for certificates of compliance for Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) Monday morning.
“No action is required of this board. Because we're not approving the applications. We still ask the future applicants come before this board and answer any questions that we have,” District 2 Commissioner Clint White said. “It gives the perception to the taxpayer that we’re approving it, which we never were approving applications. All we were doing was acknowledging it.”
The only action the board took was to ask questions of the representative owners. County Clerk Wendy Dunlap then handed each applicant a copy of a letter which was approved at the Sept. 30, 2019 board meeting. The letter states the board is not approving or condoning an activity which is still illegal based upon current federal law, so as to not jeopardize receiving federal funds or qualified grants.
The change in handling these OMMA certificate applications began with District 1 Commissioner Troy White voting no to acknowledging the certificates at the March 22nd meeting.
Phillip Patten was available as an owner and representative for 43718 Ventures LLC in District 270 Industrial Park South Block 1, Lots 24 through 27 also owned by Hengmin Xiao and Changlong Liu. Patten has been to the board several times for name change discrepancies, formerly Trifecta Hemp, LLC, 1111 Ventures, LLC. This time the partners have changed from Guo Ming and Xiang Hengmin, according to the earlier application.
Patten answered several questions about zoning.
“The only thing that changed was the name spelling and my partner,” Patten said. “Everything's got to be right. And I’m just not going to submit it to OMMA until everything is right.”
Wei Lin was at the meeting as a representative and owner of Lucky Wei, LLC in District 2 Section 29 T20N R18W NW of the NW. Also on the application was Theodora Violet Bekederemo. Lin was unable to answer the board’s questions and eventually called an interpreter on his cell phone. Putting the phone on speaker, he handed it to the board for them to ask the person on the other end who was unidentified and answered in broken English.
When asked by District 3 Commissioner Vernie Matt if the State Fire Marshal had been out to do an inspection, the voice answered that the facility was out of town, south of Mutual.
“It's kind of a state law, you got to have the fire marshal there to inspect your buildings and such,” Matt said.
After the call, Troy White voiced his concern about the use of electronic devices to call people to answer questions.
“I don’t think it’s inappropriate to expect our questions get answered before they receive the letter,” Troy White said. “I think that was absolutely ridiculous. I think that if they're going to apply through this meeting, they at least need to have the courtesy to have an English speaking person or representative.”
Matt agreed, “They need to bring their own interpreter.”
According to District Attorney Christopher M. Boring, there have been people coming to the board with these applications in which the board isn’t certain are residents of Woodward County. He clarified that individuals applying should be able to communicate effectively in order to answer the board’s questions.
OMMA requires Oklahoma residency which could be proven with a utility bill, tax or assessment record or Oklahoma identification, according to Boring.
“The concern that I have is that the language in the OMMA puts you guys in a position that you can ask as many questions as you want until you're blue in the face, and the state statutes require you approve those,” Boring said. “I don’t think it’s fair to you guys and not appropriate.”
Troy White asked Boring how OMMA can take away the county’s autonomy to vote.
“The state has put this burden on the counties for you guys to approve things that we as a county did not approve,” Boring said. “They put the burden on you guys to go out and enforce the state statute that you guys don't have any control over.”
Boring also said it is important the county know about these new businesses are coming in for new assessments and tax purposes.
According to Clint White, the County Assessor can go out and assess each plant in addition to the buildings and equipment.
“I'm afraid there's some businesses out there that have just fallen under the radar,” Clint White said. “She's gonna have to be going in probably every year as the plants grow, which is another security issue.”
Clint White voiced some concern over the assessor’s safety, saying some of these facilities have guard dogs.
“We're not properly equipped to do these things,” Boring added. “All the money is going to OMMA and there is zero enforcement.”
Sheriff Kevin Mitchell said he has never seen an OMMA representative in the area.