Oklahoma AG ‘shocked’ at resounding defeat of recreational marijuana
By John Dobberstein, Editor
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said Wednesday that he was shocked at how voters soundly rejected State Question 820, just as he was shocked that medical marijuana was approved back in 2018.
With this week’s vote, Drummond will turn his attention to prosecuting illegal grow operations and criminal organizations taking advantage of the state’s marijuana rules..
“The consumption of marijuana in Oklahoma is not a problem,” Drummond said during a luncheon at the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce. “If you want to smoke marijuana, you can get a medical marijuana card and have access to that. I came out against the state question not because I’m anti-consumer, but I was alarmed with what I observed across the state, principally in rural communities.”
Before a moratorium was placed on medical marijuana licensing by lawmakers, the state had more than 10,000 grow operations, which has since been whittled down to 6,299.
Drummond said the three largest grow operations in Oklahoma produce enough product to meet the needs of all marijuana-consuming Oklahomans, which means most of other operators are redundant.
There wasn’t enough enforcement of marijuana laws in the state early on, “because we didn't have anybody in the position of the attorney general willing to step up as the chief law enforcement officer and coalesce our state agencies,” Drummond said, noting he has increased collaboration with the Oklahoma Bureau Narcotics, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations and the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority since taking office.
The federal government was reluctant to cooperate early on, Drummond added, because State Question 788 was passed “and we opened up the portal and didn’t close it quick enough. But now that it’s become an interstate commerce issue, the federal government is collaborating wonderfully.”
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Drummond said investigations so far have established that crime syndicates from China, Mexico and Central America have infiltrated Oklahoma, which nudged the Department of Homeland Security, ATF, FBI and the Secret Service to lend more support. Drug agents are searching not only for illegal product but looking to dismantle the framework of criminal networks operating in the state.
Marijuana farms have become magnets for human trafficking, Drummond said – mostly Asian men and women, “that have been offered this land of opportunity and come and live with us. But they’re staying and living in absolute abject poverty on these grow operations. And then to meet the needs of the syndicated crime bureau, sex trafficking was brought in.
“I want to quickly stand up strike forces and take out organized crime because the marijuana is just the entryway,” to other drugs like fentanyl and opioids that have entered the distribution network.
“If everybody in this room took a fentanyl pill right now, 20% to 23% of us would die. The rest of us would do anything for that next pill,” Drummond told the room packed with community and business leaders. “Fentanyl creates a demand that is scary right now. The demand is what our young people or reckless adult people are being exposed to. We don't know what we're getting when we use that drug. And if it's not coming from a pharmacy, don't put it in your pocket because you’re running the risk of dying.”
Another facet of the problem are Oklahoma prisons, which Drummond said have become a “hotbed of illegal activity.” Drummond said he’s increasing engagement with the Department of Corrections and pledging to use wiretaps and other technology to crack down on illicit behavior.
READ OUR SERIES OF ARTICLES ON THE FENTANYL CRISIS IN OKLAHOMA