The Escalation of Illicit Cannabis Trade Poses Grave Concerns

**Massive Marijuana Shipments Disguised as Innocent Goods**
One shipment was disguised as camera equipment. Another as shiitake mushrooms. But when law enforcement cracked open the crates to inspect them, they found something much more valuable: thousands of pounds of marijuana worth tens of millions of dollars.

**Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics Cracks Down on Illegal Weed Trafficking**
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics has made two significant busts this year, intercepting massive shipments of illegal marijuana heading to New York and New Jersey. In the latest raid, authorities seized around 7,000 pounds of marijuana worth nearly $28 million from a warehouse in Oklahoma City. This follows a similar operation in April, where approximately 7,000 pounds of marijuana were stopped while en route to the same destinations.

**Criminals Exploit Legal Loopholes and Cheap Land in Oklahoma**
According to Mark Woodward, a spokesperson for Oklahoma’s Bureau of Narcotics, the state has become a hotbed for marijuana trafficking due to criminals capitalizing on cheap land and legal loopholes. He reveals that on any given day, shipments of marijuana from Oklahoma farms make their way to the black market all across the United States.

**New York’s Struggle with Legal Recreational Marijuana**
New York has become an attractive market for illegal cannabis due to the challenges surrounding the rollout of legal recreational marijuana. Critics argue that excessive regulations and a complex licensing process have hindered legitimate efforts. As a result, illegal dispensaries have sprung up all over the state, with an estimated 1,500 operating in New York City alone in February.

**Crackdown on Illegal Dispensaries in New York**
To combat the illegal cannabis business, authorities have been conducting raids and inspections of storefronts in New York, Ithaca, and Binghamton. In June, they seized over 1,000 pounds of illicit cannabis worth over $11 million. Recent police raids and an agreement with the Manhattan District Attorney have resulted in the closure of 11 stores, mainly on the Upper West Side, that were selling illegal cannabis products.

**The Perfect Storm: Where is the Illegal Weed Coming From?**
Despite New York’s efforts, authorities are still unsure of the source of the illegal marijuana flooding the market. Legal cannabis in the state is typically grown locally and subject to rigorous regulations, leading to increased costs for cultivators and consumers. In contrast, Oklahoma has become a prime location for growing marijuana due to its simplified regulatory framework and low licensing costs.

**Oklahoma Emerges as the Ideal Cannabis Growing Location**
Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana in 2018, and the cost to obtain a license is only $2,500. The state’s lenient regulations have attracted growers from other states like California and Nevada, where recreational use was legalized earlier. By the end of 2021, Oklahoma had over 9,000 licensed cannabis farms, surpassing California.

**Attempts to Regulate the Industry in Oklahoma**
The surge in cannabis farms prompted Governor Kevin Stitt to impose a moratorium on new growing, processing, and dispensing licenses until August 2024. Voters also rejected the legalization of recreational marijuana in March. Oklahoma’s legislature attempted to impose stricter limits on obtaining medical marijuana cards and the amount of THC allowed per serving but was met with a veto from Governor Stitt.

**Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics Fights Back Against Illegal Trafficking**
In collaboration with law enforcement agencies in other states and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is actively working to curb illegal marijuana trafficking. However, they face an ongoing battle against criminal organizations and are constantly raiding farms and warehouses to shut down illicit operations.

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