Law enforcement officials of all kinds, including those here in Garvin County, are literally counting one plant at a time to ensure legal marijuana grow operations are doing it the right way.
In other words, officials like Sheriff Jim Mullett and his deputies are teaming with other agencies like the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) to do what they can to make sure these sites growing marijuana for medical purposes are following the law.
For Mullett the difficult task is a high priority for his office as dozens of what he calls “grow houses” have popped up in Garvin County ever since voters statewide approved medical marijuana in 2018.
“I'm passionate about this,” Mullett said while addressing county commissioners Monday.
“I'm not against the grow houses. I just want to make sure they're done correctly and by the law.
“There are many operations in this county that are doing it right, and there are other facilities that aren't doing to correctly. We try to look into these operations and make sure they're compliant with state law.
“What I'm looking at is making sure they're compliant, they're doing it right and the land is protected.”
The sheriff says there is no limit to the number of legal marijuana operations for a particular area as right now there about 200 just in Garvin County.
The rest of the state has also been popular for these operations as the number in Oklahoma has already surpassed places like Colorado and even California, he said.
Even though deputies here occasionally team up with OBN agents only about 15 compliance checks have been completed so far in the county because of limited resources and a process that's time-consuming.
At each site checked so far there has been some sort on noncompliance found, which Mullett says is typically only an administrative thing resulting in fines.
An example of noncompliance is some operations may be cited for going over the 30,000 or 40,000 plants they're legally allowed to grow.
The way that's discovered is many times county deputies or other law enforcement officers are spending their time counting each single plant.
According to Mullett, another possible problem is the location of grow operations, such as one now in Maysville he says is only 168 feet from a school.
“We'll do compliance checks and makes sure they're doing it right. I refuse to allow it to come in and not be compliant. We're going to battle this the best we can. Every sheriff in the state is facing this.”
When grow operations are found to be in noncompliance and fined Mullett would also like to see some of that money stay right here to help fund ongoing efforts to ensure these operations follow the rules.
Sometimes the violations are more than just a simple thing as the sheriff says there have been six assaults at marijuana grow operations on complaints like assault and battery and trafficking.
“We're working with the highway patrol to show that some of the marijuana grown in Garvin County is going to other states,” Mullett said, adding this is still criminal drug trafficking.
“We know for sure some went to Colorado. We know some is going through Texas and Kansas.”
Also part of the equation is the state Department of Environmental Quality, which Mullett said is working with his office to try and keep trash from these operations from ending up in lakes and rivers.
Work is also ongoing with the state attorney general's office to investigate what is described as “illegal purchases of land” to set up grow operations in Oklahoma.