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Green Gold Rush: Oklahoma's medical marijuana regulations response

Posted at 9:06 PM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 13:51:57-04

TULSA, Okla. — Marijuana in Oklahoma is a fast-growing business, but it is also a young industry in the Sooner State. Its billion dollars in revenue has thousands of companies jumping on the green gold rush, but there is concern enforcement needs to make up ground.

“It’s going to get worse," said Carolyn Dobrinski of Bristow, Okla. "It’s not going to get any better.”

Dobrinski and her husband, Calvin, live off an old beaten path in Bristow.

For more than 30 years, the couple and a handful of neighbors have lived in the Creek County's countryside without issue. Then they claim some out-of-towners moved in across the street.

“This is our home," Dobrinski said. "We don’t want to live next to a place that looks like that.”

The Dobrinskis told 2 Works for You they voted to approve the growth and sale of medical marijuana back in 2018. Two years later, a licensed grower bought this property in their neighborhood and built a grow facility in the backyard.

During the warm seasons, the Dobrinskis claim their new neighbors operate an outdoor grow.

“All of us were talking about it," Dobrinski said.

According to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, this cannabis grow business is just one of 74 licensed growers in Bristow and one of about 7,000 across Oklahoma.

The OMMA is in charge of enforcing regulations against each and every one.

“It’s a lot to wrap around but we’ve been strengthening those relationships and working together very well," OMMA Director Dr. Kelly Williams said.

Dr. Williams said the OMMA only had 60 days to get up and running after medical cannabis was legalized. She admitted to 2 Works for You, her agency is playing catch up to visit and inspect every grow business in the state.

Right now – the OMMA only has one compliance coordinator and four field inspectors running down the cannabis checklist for all those sites.

“There’s still a lot of regulatory teeth that we lack," Dr. Williams said.

But her agency is not the only line of defense against bad actors in the bud business.

The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics cracks down on illegal activity among marijuana growers and processors.

“Right now, our top priority will be the criminal complaints, whether that’s coming from a competing business or a neighbor across the street," Mark Woodward, spokesperson for the OBN, said.

Dobrinski’s complaint falls under OBN jurisdiction. The agency requires each outdoor grow to house its plants behind an eight foot tall barrier wall. If the marijuana flowers are within eyesight from a neighbor’s yard the fence must block the view.

“I can’t see how that’s a privacy fence, at all," Calvin Dobrinski said.

It is still unclear if that grower is in violation of OBN standards. The OBN said they receive about four or five complaints, like this one, per week. But, Woodward said, complaints about criminal activity get investigated before issues like the Dobrinskis'.

The OMMA said they're in the process of training 11 more compliance inspectors. Their goal is to get out and inspect every grow facility this year.

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