Business, Politics

The Cannabis Industry Is Still Very Much in Its Wild West Era

March 22, 2022 03:00 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 4 Minutes
The Cannabis Industry Is Still Very Much in Its Wild West Era

Oklahoma is known for its picturesque views, western landscapes, and quiet little towns dotted along highways and backroads. Park of Route 66, in Miami, Oklahoma, is known as “The Gateway” due to being a central point between the east and west United States. Venture down into the Ardmore region of southwest Oklahoma, and you’ll find a different type of gateway—the gateway to the state’s illicit cannabis market.

At a farm located near Ratliff City, a rural Oklahoma town with a mere population of 90, local and state authorities conducted a raid on an illegal cannabis grow operated by Xinglong LLC. This wasn’t somebody growing a few plants over their limit; rather, this was a large bust that nabbed 150,000 cannabis plants estimated to be worth $500 million on the illicit market. That puts the value of each plant at $3,333.33.

This operation wasn’t exactly trying to hide. They appeared to be operating as a legal farm. 1st Sgt. Aaron Bender of the Oklahoma Army National Guard told media sources, “When we first got there, I kind of knew it was the place due to the 8-foot corrugated metal fencing that surrounded the entire location, plus you could see the hoop huts or hoop houses, you know, the grow houses there on the grounds.”

Recent Oklahoma Raid Paints a Bigger Picture

The place was said to look like it was still being built. To help paint a picture of what National Guard troops saw when they arrived, a section of fence was blown over by a UH-72 Lakota helicopter that assisted law enforcement earlier with the raid. This raid was part of a joint operation between agents from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control (OBN) and local and state law enforcement. The bust spanned across a total of nine farms and three homes, with five individuals arrested.

Eight of the nine farms raided appear to have had proper licensing, but instead of selling to legitimate businesses in Oklahoma, the cannabis was being sold on the illicit market where the profits are much higher and the revenue is tax-free. Spokesman Mark Woodward of the OBN told media sources:

“We can’t trace a single ounce of marijuana from any of these nine farms that went to some legitimate business or a person who was legally allowed to have it. A hundred percent of it that we’ve traced has gone to the illicit market in places like Texas, California, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, and we suspect many other states, as well.”

This really shows the harm being done by the continued federal prohibition of cannabis. People in these states wouldn’t have to turn to the illicit market to purchase cannabis if legal cannabis programs were in place. Criminals wouldn’t be getting rich on illicit sales, and users wouldn’t be subjected to the risk of laced or low-quality cannabis.

Illicit Markets Remain Out of Control 

Even with the state having legalized medical marijuana in 2018, Oklahoma’s illicit cannabis market is out of control. If the issue is not addressed soon, more harm will be done to the state’s residents and legal entrepreneurs. To help combat its illicit market, the state has given cannabis businesses 90 days to comply with METRC, a seed-to-sale tracking system for the legal cannabis industry.

When people operate in the shadows of the illicit market, dangerous things can happen. In many cases, black market dealers don’t have the best interest of consumers in mind—they’re concerned with profit. To boost profits, many dealers will tamper with products to get buyers hooked, lacing them with other drugs like methamphetamine and fentanyl.

Illicit market cannabis sold to people in Pueblo, Colorado, for example, is facing this very problem. According to a statement released by the city’s police, “Many users who buy marijuana illegally from street dealers are experiencing adverse reactions while smoking marijuana. Locally, marijuana has been found to be laced with dangerous drugs such as fentanyl and methamphetamine.” According to authorities, cannabis vapes purchased illegally often have opioids or amphetamines in them.

A disturbing trend with illegal cannabis sales in Pueblo is that a good portion of those who overdose from illicit cannabis are teens. Recreational cannabis is legal in Colorado, but you must be 21 years of age or older to legally buy it. This means teens have to swipe family members’ goods or resort to unregulated products sold by illicit dealers.

The illicit market is not a good one. For some, though, it is the only one they have access to. While many states have fully legalized cannabis for the benefit and safety of their citizens, many Americans still live in the startling reality of undercover operations and questionable products. As a society, we can put an end to this widespread issue by legalizing the cannabis plant for everyone.

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Kiana says:

March 25, 2022 at 11:06 am

Interesting Read! 🙂