Robbers posing as state regulatory officials just raided two legal medical marijuana farms in Oklahoma and stole their weed.
The first of these raids happened at a state-licensed facility in Hughes County last Sunday. Six people with official-looking badges from the “Oklahoma Marijuana Board” handed the farm's owners a search warrant and demanded payment for a code violation. Once they entered the property, the supposed law enforcement officers seized several mobile phones and an unknown quantity of cannabis. The next day, the same crew hit a farm in Seminole County.
Law enforcement raids on weed farms are still commonplace, even in states that have completely legalized cannabis. Earlier this month, California cops raided a legal Los Angeles dispensary just for failing to pay a late fee, and cops in other states have also busted legal pot farms that have sold their weed on the black market.
These Oklahoma raids had nothing to do with regulatory enforcement, though. The “Oklahoma Marijuana Board” does not actually exist, and the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) - the actual agency that regulates the state cannabis industry - does not make a practice of raiding facilities over fees.
"So it's not the first time we've seen that happen," said Mark Woodward, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN), to The Oklahoman. "In the past they've showed up at either a grow or a dispensary and claimed to be with the state of Oklahoma, saying there were violations and demanded money on site to pay the fine for the violation or be shut down."
"We've received those reports as well, and have been working with OBN on a strategy to make sure that we're keeping our licensees in the loop so that they are on alert that this is happening," said OMMA Director Adria Berry at a press conference, The Oklahoman reports. "It's an all-hands-on-deck situation right now. We are supportive of any idea that helps get more law enforcement eyes on the industry.”
Police have already apprehended one person in connection with the raids, and are now working to bust the rest of the crew and recover the stolen weed. State law enforcement agencies are collaborating to investigate charges of robbery, kidnapping, and drug trafficking in connection with the case.
It may seem odd that legal weed businesses were so easily tricked by criminals claiming to represent a completely fake agency. There are well over 12,000 legal medical cannabis businesses in Oklahoma, though, and OMMA's tiny inspection division has only gotten around to inspecting about 40 percent of all legal businesses in the state. Because of this, most legal pot businesses have never directly interacted with an actual OMMA inspector, and don’t know the proper protocol.
The OMMA has recently stepped up its efforts to reign in the state's medical cannabis industry, which currently serves more than 375,000 registered patients. The Sooner State now has 56 dispensaries for every 100,000 citizens, and this vast number of businesses makes it exceptionally difficult for regulators to ensure that all of them follow the letter of the law.
Starting this May, regulators will require all medical marijuana businesses to enter all of their product into the state’s new seed-to-sale tracking system. This new system will help identify businesses that are diverting their weed to the black market, and the OMMA has also hired six new enforcement officers to crack down on any violations. Meanwhile, Oklahoma legislators have filed over 100 bills that seek to impose new limitations and restrictions on the state's thriving medical pot market.