Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $4,000,000)
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control (OBN) is the state agency responsible for enforcing criminal and administrative drug laws. In June 2018, Oklahomans approved State Question 788, the Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, legalizing the medical use of marijuana by patients who have state-issued medical marijuana cards. The medical marijuana program is regulated by two agencies. Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) is responsible for issuing cards to patients and commercial licenses to businesses. OBN is responsible for registering any entity that manufactures or distributes a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), including medical marijuana businesses.
Since adopting SQ788, Oklahomans have faced many challenges related to the medical marijuana industry, mostly due to the rapid implementation of the program. Oklahoma is an attractive state to criminal organizations because of its low land prices, low licensing fees, the lack of production caps, the lack of regulation, and the lack of resources to effectively regulate the new industry. Illegal activities inherent to any marijuana program have emerged across Oklahoma, including circumventing requirements for licensing and/or registration, suspicious land sales, environmental concerns, public safety concerns, and other activities such as illegal distribution, human trafficking, and money laundering.
The need for increased investigations and enforcement of marijuana-based crimes have reached a critical level in Oklahoma. Often, investigating and eradicating illegal marijuana grows and distribution operations require the resources of multiple divisions of OBN, as well as collaborations with other local, state, and federal agencies. The purpose of the Byrne funds is to directly support efforts to address the challenges of identifying, investigating, successfully prosecuting criminal organizations and their distribution networks. Funds will also be used to eradicate illegal product. Although, not at 100% capacity, OBN has established two of the proposed specialized investigative units, referred to as the Marijuana Enforcement Teams (MET). The MET project strategies are intelligence-based, relying on experienced personnel to gather and analyze information, collaborate with other agencies, and conduct medical marijuana investigations. The Chief Agent will ensure case activities, operations, and prosecutions align with OBN’s standards and mission toward a drug free state. Federal funding will provide salaries for agents and support staff in those units, along with increased reconnaissance and command and control capabilities for large scale operations. As a result, this project will be beneficial to law enforcement operations and the safety all citizens of Oklahoma, especially those who may live or work in the vicinity of an operation.