OKLAHOMA CITY (OBV) – State leaders and Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) officials are claiming major victories in the state’s continuous effort to bust illegal marijuana operations and bogus medical marijuana businesses.
OMMA officials and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office both issued announcements Tuesday regarding progress in quashing fraudulent medical marijuana operations.
An administrative law judge ruled last week that Sun Light Farm LLC, a grow operation in Sayre, Okla., provided fraudulent ownership information when applying for a license renewal. The OMMA then denied the application and removed Sun Light Farm from Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry, according to OMMA officials.
“I’m pleased the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority was able to investigate and hold bad actors in our state accountable, quickly bringing this straw ownership case to a close,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt. “I look forward to many more wins like this one as we work to crack down hard on illegal operations. Drug cartels, organized crime and foreign nationals working for the Chinese Communist Party have no place in Oklahoma, and we will continue to do everything we can to bring these bad actors to justice.”
OMMA’s legal team successfully argued that the Oklahoma resident named in Sun Light Farm’s ownership documentation is not the real owner, a practice referred to as “straw ownership” or “ghost ownership”.
Medical marijuana businesses in the state are not considered legal unless they are 75-percent owned by an Oklahoma resident or residents, according to state law and OMMA rules.
“This is a preview of what’s coming from OMMA as we continue to build our legal and investigative teams and capabilities,” said OMMA Executive Director Adria Berry. “Within weeks of becoming a stand-alone state agency, OMMA took swift action against people harming the medical marijuana industry by operating outside of our rules and state laws. This was a clear case of fraudulent ownership where non-Oklahoma residents tried to illegally work their way into our state.”
This was OMMA’s first time trying a suspected straw ownership case since becoming an independent state agency with its own rules on Nov. 1. OMMA’s legal team is busy reviewing more than 70 cases of suspected fraudulent ownership in business license applications.
“We’re just getting started,” Berry said. “There are dozens of other cases of suspected fraudulent ownership that we’re reviewing right now. This won’t be the last time we take action on someone trying to harm Oklahomans through illegal business practices.”
Attorney General Gentner Drummond issued a news release praising legislators for passing three bills created to combat the rise in illegal marijuana grow operations.
“Oklahoma’s illegal marijuana grow operations pose a serious threat to public safety, particularly in rural communities invaded by organized criminals from China and Mexico,” Drummond said. “As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I am committed to working arm-in-arm with Oklahoma’s law enforcement agencies to deliver justice and restore peaceful order.”
The Oklahoma House of Representatives approved House Bill 2095, written by Rep. Jon Echols and Sen. Lonnie Paxton. The bill does the following:
- Empowers the state attorney general to have investigative and enforcement authority over medical marijuana laws, in support of the OMMA;
- Allows all enforcement agencies to collaborate;
- Allows the attorney general to conduct unannounced on-site inspections;
- Allows the attorney general, upon reasonable suspicion, to subpoena documents to identify any ownership interest in the suspected business;
- Extends the moratorium on grow licenses until Aug. 1, 2026.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 806, written by Sen. Brent Howard and Rep. Jon Echols, and Senate Bill 913, written by Sen. Darcy Jech and Rep. Anthony Moore.
SB 806 does the following:
- Requires documented proof of land ownership of a licensed marijuana grow operation;
- Requires an application to transfer a business license to include the same information required of new licensees;
- Prohibits transfers when a licensee is under investigation;
- Limits transfers to once per year;
- Prohibits multiple business licenses within the same category to be registered under one address or physical location.
SB 913 requires all marijuana grow businesses to hold a $50,000 bond that can be recalled if the property has been abandoned, the license has been revoked or in response to a violation of law, regulation or ordinance requiring remedial action.
“The bond will be used to address any necessary restoration of the property, including removing equipment, destruction of waste, remediation of environmental hazards, prohibiting public access, addressing improper buildings or determining the final disposition of any seized property,” the AG Office’s news release states.