OBN Director says too many growers, a 'national threat'

May 8—Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics Director Donnie Anderson didn't mince words when he spoke before the Rogers County Commission Monday.

He said too many medical marijuana growers in Oklahoma are nothing short of a national security threat.

He was in town to show his appreciation for the help of the local sheriff's office and county commissioners who, on March 28, assisted in the seizure and disposal of more than 30,000 pounds of black market marijuana, along with 27 plants.

What had been a "licensed" grow operation was located in a former industrial building site near the rural community of Tiawah, southeast of Claremore.

District Attorney Matt Ballard confirmed no arrests have been made.

"We're making the progress on that. There will be some coming," Ballard said.

If convicted, growers and processors can face 20 years to life in prison, along with $50,000 in fines for aggravated manufacturing. Trafficking charges are punishable by no more than 20 years in prison and no less than a $100,000 fine.

Earlier this year, the OBN Task Force seized 72,000 pounds of marijuana — possibly the largest in state history — in a metal barn in Wagoner County.

"I'm sure everyone in Oklahoma knows we've had a huge problem in the state of Oklahoma with medical marijuana," Anderson said. "We are funneling laundered money back to communist countries, Russia and China, and to terroristic countries that derives directly from Oklahoma marijuana."

And it's more than marijuana, he said.

"This is what we've been combating, what I've been dealing with since I came back to the bureau more than four years ago. This is more an issue with national security," he said.

Anderson said that as the OBN director, he has been to Washington, D.C., twice in the past two months to give security briefings.

"To me, that's scary. If you are depending on me and my agency to be what's giving you the information for national security, I think that's a travesty in itself," he said.

Anderson said that four years ago, Oklahoma had around 10,000 grow operations. Voters approved legalization of medical cannabis in 2018 and began issuing licenses for grow, processing and distribution sites. Today, he said, grow operations in the state number around 3,200.

"We are still 3,195 too many grows," Anderson said. "Oklahoma should have no more than eight to 10 grows to satisfy the need for the state." Anderson said. He compared Oklahoma to California, which has 2,500 licensed growers, and Arkansas which has eight.

"Once again [the problem of illegal marijuana grows] are not just confined to your community," Anderson said. "It is not just confined to the the state of Oklahoma. ... They are funding things in China ... and we are also funding wars."

The Tiawah raid confiscated around $1 million in cash, according to Anderson.

"So much money in involved in this. ... Look what's going on in the U.S. These people come in and embed in politics and money. They try to get you to forgive them for what they are doing and that is trashing our country," Anderson said. "They [local law enforcement and the county] get zero for this other than a thank you."

District 3 Commissioner Ron Burrows, in whose district the grow house was located, said the all county commissioners have been actively supporting OBN's efforts for several months by assisting with the safe disposal of illegal marijuana.

Commissioner Dan DeLoier has assisted OBN in multiple smaller, independent operations, the most recent last week.

Anderson presented Sheriff Scott Walton, District Attorney Investigator Wayne Stinnett and Burrows with engraved plaques and thanked them for being "people who really care about their community."