An attempted crackdown on illegal marijuana growers in Oklahoma is putting several legitimate dispensaries out of business. New legislation from the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs is leading to excessive fines and arrests, ultimately causing small legal growers to go under. 

A new law put forward in 2023 requires several documents that initially did not have to be on record until a marijuana business reapplied for a license. This is causing several issues for growers like Kandis Correa and Josh Spears of Redmen LLC. The changes have cost them a potential $10,000 this year alone. Investigations and inspections have become more thorough and frequent to ensure new laws are stringently followed. “We can be shut down and arrested if we miss something,” Correa said. “An attorney has to be hired because no guidelines are given out with the new rules and regs. And when you ask advice from someone at OMMA, they say they don’t give out legal advice over the phone.”

Heather Strickland, a consultant for cannabis business owners working with Cannacomply Consulting LLC, explained the challenges within the new regulations to the Tahlequah Daily Press. “Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority requires operators to prove what should have been on record when a business applied for a license,” she said. Additional documents marijuana businesses now need to have on hand include blueprints of their space, a business plan, and tags for their plants. “When plants are cut for cloning, there is no specific time in the rules that a tag must be attached – just when the plant can sustain the weight,” Strickland commented. She described an incident where tags were in the grow room but not on the plants yet, and two arrests were made because of it. 

State Senator Dewayne Pemberton claimed the sudden enforcement of these strict rules was part of a crackdown on illegal growers connected to the mob. “Oklahoma has been inundated with illegal grow facilities,” he said. “Many of those are being run by Mexican cartels and Russian and Chinese mafia.” The Republican senator said that all new grow licenses have been suspended for the next few years to get grow businesses under control. According to Pemberton, “Oklahoma is the No. 1 state in the union for producing illegal marijuana.”

Kristin Parks, owner of Rootsup Cultivation, spoke to Tahlequah Daily Press about the adverse effects these laws are having on the marijuana industry across Oklahoma. “We plan to stay in business,” she said. “It’s just hard to find buyers because of the flooding of product on the market by folks who are not going to stay in business.” Many businesses are closing because they cannot pay the steep fines to comply with the new laws, which officially go into effect on October 31. Growers shutting down their dispensaries have lowered prices so much that it is difficult for businesses to stay open to make a profit.

Application fees and all sales tax on marijuana are routed directly into OMMA’s pocket, according to legislation passed in 2023. It is yet to be seen how the closure of so many businesses will affect the organization’s policies.