“For the first 2½ years, we had a few businesses we had to shut down because they didn’t make an effort to get a license, but that was a really, really rare occurrence,” he said. That changed last fall, Woodward said, when he noticed an increase in land acquisitions and license applications in rural areas. “When we started to see the prime growing season, the calls started coming in to law enforcement about a suspicious grow,” he said. “In late March to early April, we really started doing deep dives. And we really did find connections to organized crime.”
He also said that following the U.S. Supreme Court McGirt decision, the OBNDD has been working with tribal law enforcement during at least some of the raids. Some tribes, including the Muscogee Nation, recently amended some ordinances related to cannabis based on Oklahoma’s passage of SQ 788, but for the sake of patient health rather than economic benefit.
Woodward said he’s seen instances in which out-of-state entities enlist an Oklahoman who meets the legal two-year residency requirement to acknowledge on paper they are an owner of a business while having little, if any, involvement in its operations.
OBNDD staff reportedly saw an increase in workers at such operations diverting products out of Oklahoma for sale around the world.
Spokeswoman Terri Watkins said OMMA makes every effort to ensure applicants meet residency and ownership criteria, which she acknowledged can be difficult. Statistics indicate OMMA has in excess of 10,000 licensed, though not necessarily active, businesses on record.