“I was aware of, and was contacted by people from other states across the US, about marijuana coming from Oklahoma to their states,” Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) Director Donnie Anderson informed the Woodward County Commission by video conference Monday morning during their weekly meeting.
According to Anderson, in the year and a half he has been director, OBN has started working some large scale cases dealing with growing issues and illegal activity in the marijuana industry.
“We are honestly very inundated by it,” Anderson said. “It isn't something that happens overnight. These are long term investigations, because they are conspiracy type investigations.”
More people inspecting the marijuana facilities aren’t necessarily going to help. The last thing criminal organizations want to do is to draw attention to themselves, according to Anderson.
“Two of these bigger (criminal) organizations that we have done, they did have their license. They were legal on the state side, so on the surface it looked good,” Anderson said. “A typical inspector wouldn't even catch this kind of thing.”
According to OBN Public Relations Agent Mark Woodward, the criminal organizations are propping people up for a squeaky clean front, using local residents. OBN is having to dig beyond multiple layers of ownership to figure out what’s really going on.
“We've got over 7,000 licensed growers in Oklahoma and the majority are doing everything right,” Woodward said. “It's those criminal organizations that have the focus of the Bureau of Narcotics”
Anderson is in the process of meeting with the Sheriffs Association in each region to bring them to the table to work together on the problem.
“There's not a county in Oklahoma (that) is not affected by this,” Anderson said. “I think you'll probably see something in the real near future with the sheriff's all across Oklahoma doing something with this. Because honestly I think most of the sheriff's have kind of been left out and having to fend for themselves.”
Landowners can potentially be on the hook for criminal activity should an OMMA licensed business be tied to black market marijuana activity, according to Woodward.
“There are organizations outside of Oklahoma, including federal organizations, that are working these cases,” Anderson said. “There will be people suffer the consequences if they're involved in this in other states.”
District 1 Commissioner Troy White asked if there was a human trafficking element with the recent busts in Erick and Guthrie that were tied to criminal organizations moving hundreds of pounds of marijuana onto the black market under the guise of a medial marijuana farm.
“That's another challenge that we're facing, but yes, I think there's human trafficking," Anderson said.
Commissioners approved a check list for Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) certificate of compliance applicants in Woodward County. The list consists of 10 requests, six of which come from State Question 788, verbatim.
For the other four requests applicants must:
• Appear in person.
• Be able to answer general licensing questions
• Acknowledge that on a federal level, all marijuana remains illegal, classified as a Schedule 1 drug with high potential for abuse and little to no medical benefit.
• Provide proof of contact with Woodward County Assessor, in which they will be provided with a letter of acknowledgment of the location of the business.
“The applicants should already have these things when they apply for the state license, so it shouldn't be a hardship,” Troy White said.
Phillip and Shelly Patten brought all the requested documentation with them with the two certificates for OMMA certificates of compliance in District 3 they wanted the board to consider.
Shelly Patten explained the OMMA application process as an online portal where all the information is input and uploaded.
“When we first applied last year... the application took 15 days. They didn't ask for nearly as much as they are now,” Shelly Patten explained. “It is taking at least 90 days now and if there was an error in any of that information they will kick it back to us and say it's been denied and to fix these errors.”
The licensing process is now sometimes taking six to nine months, according to Shelly Patten.
“I agree with you,” Shelly Patten told commissioners. "I don't see any issue with asking for the same documentation. It's a little bit more paperwork on our end, a little bit more for you to follow up on. But in the end, it's good for the county to know that everyone has their ducks in a row and are trying to do it the way that they should be doing it.”
The Pattens’ certificates were for Business 43790 Ventures, LLC in Section 15 T22N R20W SW ¼ 8 acre track and Business 4901 Ventures, LLC in Section 8 T22N R20W SW 4.74 acres.
Commissioners approved a determination of $327,046.54 maximum monthly highway expenditures for April, as well as the county cash fund estimate of needs and request for appropriations.
The board approved a transfer of $40,000 appropriations from general use tax fund into the jail use tax account. Use tax revenue has only been running around $22,000, but the account had $86,475.76 before this transfer.
“The jail funding without an increase in use tax or sales tax is unsustainable,” Troy White said. “By the end of the fiscal year, our county use tax fund will be depleted.”
There was no discussion during the meeting about how the jail appropriations problem might be solved.
A contract with Canadian County Juvenile Detention Center for services in fiscal year 2021/2022 was approved.
Commissioners approved interlocal agreements with the Town of Fort Supply and Fort Supply Public Schools.
The board approved the monthly report of the County Treasurer to the State Auditor Inspector for the month of April.
A resolution for disposing of a 2000 computer for the County Clerk’s office to be junked was approved.
Commissioners approved the court clerks records management and preservation monthly report for May 3, 2021.