OTTAWAY COUNTY, Okla. (NewsNation) — Chinese organized crime groups, enticed by cheap land and lax growing requirements, are bringing a new wave of violent crime to Oklahoma, according to authorities.
Oklahoma currently has 6,300 licensed marijuana grow farms. Nearly half of them are under investigation by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
One operation in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, was raided for its ties to illegal black market sales. Authorities seized over 26,000 plants and 900 pounds of processed marijuana, an estimated street value of $24 million.
It’s been a race to grow in the Sooner State since medical marijuana was legalized in 2018. Since then, dispensaries and grow houses have popped up all around the land — both legal and illegal.
“We’re seeing issues in my state of Chinese nationals being shot execution-style in grow operations,” said U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.
The illegal grow operations are also seeing human trafficking and prostitution rings on large scales. Jian Lin and Jianfa Zhou were arrested for running an illegal grow operation and sex trafficking undocumented Asian women.
The legal operations pale in comparison to the illegal ones. And they’re creating issues for law enforcement, including the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
“These proceeds from these black market organizations go back to the criminal organizations themselves that are involved in homicides, terrorism, extortion, arson and murder,” Mark Woodward, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. “That is what you are supporting when you’re buying black market marijuana.”
Lankford believes Oklahoma won’t be the only state encountering these grow operations.
“Chinese organizations are buying up land by the hundreds of thousands of acres,” said Lankford. “It’s bringing in labor, trafficking, human trafficking into the state … to be able to work these particular illegal grow operations. And then they’re then trucking it all over the country. So Oklahoma has become an epicenter of distributing marijuana across the country”
It’s become so out of control that Lankford is pushing for a new bill, the SOIL Act, which aims to limit and provide oversight on foreign countries buying land in Oklahoma.