Illegal weed farm in Elk City shut down as police blame weak laws

ELK CITY, OK – Beckham County Sheriff’s Office assisted OBNDD with another raid on an illegal marijuana grow today. Several agencies, including OHP, District 2 Drug Task Force, Elk City Police Dept. And Elk City Fire Dept. assisted with the operation. A traffic stop conducted by OHP and the Beckham County Sheriff’s K9 team earlier this month resulted in an arrest and warrant that led to today’s raid, said Sheriff Derek Manning.

“The raid at this grow operation, which was located along Business 40 west of Elk City, resulted in the confiscation and destruction of an estimated 2,500 plants,” Manning said. “We also detained and identified five individuals at that location.”

The sheriff said he also appreciated the help of County Commissioner Tate Finnell and his crew for providing equipment and service for the destruction of the plants.

Manning said this illegal grow operation was smaller than the operation raided near Erick a few weeks ago, but the street value of the drugs that can be produced from such a grow is still high.

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“When you consider that a pound of dried, harvested marijuana can go for more than two thousand dollars in some markets, it can easily reach up to hundreds of thousands if not into the millions for even a smaller operation, he said. Manning said those types of profit possibilities and the lax marijuana laws in Oklahoma are what have encouraged organized crime to enter the state.

“The honest, legitimate business people who are trying to run their marijuana grow operations legally and by the book are being damaged by these criminal operations,” he said. “A person who follows the law doesn’t have the option of raising vast amounts of marijuana and selling it illegally out of state for high profit. They don’t have the option of using those profits to flood the legal market with cheap product to force out the competition. And they don’t have the option, and hopefully not the complete lack of moral character, to use human trafficking to provide cheap or free labor for their operation. Good, legitimate business people don’t do these things. Organized crime does. And we have to use every legal means to protect our communities, our legitimate marijuana businesses, and the helpless victims of these crime organizations. If we don’t, they will continue to gain a stronger and stronger foothold in our state.”

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Manning said the problem is the legal means which law enforcement relies upon are few right now.

“I heard someone say in a television interview last night that the reason these illegal grow houses have popped up so heavily in our state is that enforcement is lax in Oklahoma. I found that statement to be ridiculous. Enforcement can’t be lax in enforcing laws that don’t exist. The slipshod and rushed nature of our laws and regulations for the marijuana industry is what invited in criminal operations,” Manning said. “There are no cap laws on how many grows this state can have. There are no limits on how many plants each grow can have. Our licensing fees are too cheap by a magnitude of at least 20 times, and the laws and regulations governing and verifying shadow ownership of marijuana grows are far too lax. These things all need to be addressed legislatively in order to make a less hospitable environment for criminal operations.”Manning said his office and the agencies he works with are all committed to fighting the criminal operations as effectively as they legally can. “We just need some better tools, legislatively speaking,” he said. “I urge everyone to contact their state legislators and encourage that to happen.”

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