Ponca City Marijuana Grow Raided by OBN for Fraud

A marijuana grow operation in Ponca City was raided by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) on Friday, after the agency discovered that the owners had obtained their license by fraud. The OBN seized several thousand plants and processed marijuana from the business, and said that arrests were pending.

The OBN’s Marijuana Enforcement Teams served a search warrant at Zhao Grow, LLC, located at 2821 East Prospect Avenue in Ponca City. The OBN said that the owners of the business were operating with an OBN Registration that was obtained by fraud, and that they were growing marijuana for the out-of-state black market.

The OBN said that the investigation began after they received a tip from a concerned citizen, who reported suspicious activity at the location. The OBN said that they conducted surveillance and undercover operations, and found evidence that the owners were violating the state’s medical marijuana laws and regulations.

The OBN said that they obtained a search warrant from the Kay County District Court, and executed it on Friday morning, with the assistance of the Kay County Sheriff’s Department. The OBN said that they found several thousand marijuana plants and processed marijuana inside the building, as well as records and documents that confirmed their suspicions.

The OBN’s Statement and Statistics

The OBN’s Director, Donnie Anderson, issued a statement after the raid, saying that the agency was committed to cracking down on illegal marijuana grows in the state, and protecting the integrity of the medical marijuana program.

“We will continue to aggressively target these criminal organizations that are exploiting our medical marijuana program, and endangering our citizens and communities,” Anderson said. “We appreciate the cooperation and support of the Kay County Sheriff’s Department, and the citizens who report these illegal activities to us.”

The OBN said that since 2021, their Marijuana Enforcement Teams have shut down more than 2,500 marijuana grows, arrested more than 250 individuals, and seized more than 975,000 pounds of marijuana as part of criminal investigations. The OBN said that as a result of their enforcement efforts, the number of registered marijuana growers in the state had dropped from 9,400 in 2021, to 6,400 in 2022, and to 3,200 in 2023.

The OBN also encouraged anyone with information about criminal drug activity to contact them via Facebook or call their tip-line at 1-800-522-8031.

The Reaction from the Marijuana Industry and Advocates

The raid at Zhao Grow, LLC, was met with mixed reactions from the marijuana industry and advocates in the state. Some praised the OBN for doing their job and enforcing the law, while others criticized the OBN for wasting resources and targeting legitimate businesses.

Joe Smith, the owner of Green Leaf Dispensary in Ponca City, said that he supported the OBN’s actions, and that he hoped that they would weed out the bad actors from the industry.

“I think it’s good that they are going after the illegal grows, because they are hurting the reputation and the quality of the medical marijuana program,” Smith said. “We need to have a level playing field, and we need to follow the rules and regulations that are in place.”

However, Mary Jones, the executive director of Oklahoma NORML, a group that advocates for marijuana reform, said that she opposed the OBN’s actions, and that she believed that they were harassing and intimidating the marijuana industry.

“I think it’s a waste of time and money, and a violation of the rights and privacy of the marijuana growers and patients,” Jones said. “We need to have a more sensible and compassionate approach to marijuana, and we need to end the prohibition and criminalization of this plant.”

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