An illegal pot farm is up for grabs on an auctioning website, and law enforcement officers from a sheriff’s office in Oklahoma are the ones selling it. After a surge in both legal and illegal cannabis operations, seized assets are left behind in the aftermath.
The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office in Tishomingo, Oklahoma posted the seized farm on Bidz4Assets.com, a Maryland-based auction website, featuring a 19.24-acre lot near Coleman. Bids will be available from Sept. 11 to Sept. 13 at an online auction.
Other seized items are up from grabs as well. The list of seized assets include grow lights, light controllers, HVAC systems, wall fans, water pumps, refrigerators, etc.
The opening bid is $755,006, and a single $25,035.00 deposit, including a $35 nonrefundable processing fee, is required to participate. Deposits must be received here by Bid4Assets no later than the end of day on Wednesday, September 6.
“We’re looking to find buyers who will take ownership of this property and use it responsibly, which was certainly not happening under the previous owners,” Johnston County Sheriff Gary Dodd said in a statement. “Let it be known throughout the county that if you use your farm to grow illegally, we will seize it and we will sell it.”
The bid comes with the following disclaimers: “Johnston County Sheriff’s Office retains the right to reject any and all bids for any reason. Johnston County Sheriff’s Office may withdraw this property from the auction at any time before or during the sale. Johnston County Sheriff’s Office reserves the right to cancel the sale of a property at any time prior to the issuance of the deed.”
Local and state law enforcement agents periodically raid illegal grow operations, seizing millions of dollars’ worth of illegal cannabis. At one farm near Coleman, authorities reportedly seized about 20,000 illegally grown cannabis plants valued at over $30 million.
The Oklahoman reports that in a news release, Bid4Assets said it “collaborated” with sheriffs and attorneys to pass legislation allowing foreclosure auctions to be conducted online.
On May 25, 2022, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 976, spearheaded by Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt.
Oklahoma’s black market for cannabis has been a major issue.
In 2021, a senior senator from Oklahoma sought millions of dollars in federal funds to battle illegal cannabis growing operations in the state.
Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican, asked for $4 million in federal funds to help Oklahoma drug law enforcement agents fight illegal operations, according to local television station KFOR.
The illicit operations have frustrated the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. KFOR reports that the bureau’s director, Donnie Anderson, has expressed worry if international drug organizations and cartels could move into Oklahoma to take advantage of medical cannabis.
As Anderson and other state officials see it, those organizations and cartels are procuring a legitimate medical cannabis license that they use to cultivate, and then are selling the product to surrounding states where pot prohibition is still in place.
Oklahoma’s Oversupply of Cannabis
Oklahoma voters legalized the use and sale of medical cannabis when they approved State Question 788 in 2018, a ballot measure that created the most loosely regulated legal cannabis market in the nation.
Fox 23 reported that Oklahoma produces 32 times the amount of cannabis it actually needs. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) published a study demonstrating that Oklahoma produces a lot more cannabis than consumers can handle.
“The study found the supply-and-demand ratio in Oklahoma is 64 grams of regulated medical cannabis supplied for every 1 gram of demand for a licensed patient,” the study reads. “The study states a ratio of 2 grams of supply for every 1 gram of demand is a healthy market, putting Oklahoma’s functional supply-and-demand ratio at 32:1.”
In May 2022, Oklahoma lawmakers passed House Bill 3208, which put a two-year pause on issuing new licenses for medical cannabis businesses. At the time, Mark Woodward, public information officer for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN), said the state approved over 2,200 medical cannabis dispensaries, making oversight of the businesses by state regulators a big logistical challenge.
“That’s a tremendous amount of dispensaries,” Woodward told KTUL in Tulsa. “It’s more than California, Oregon, Alaska, Washington, Nevada and New Mexico combined.”
A few things are being done to help control the market.
Oklahoma lawmakers passed a dozen bills last year that are designed to tighten regulations on the state’s medical cannabis industry, including a requirement that new dispensaries and cultivation operations be located at least 1,000 ft. from schools.
Last March, Oklahoma voters rejected a state question that would have allowed for adult-use cannabis, following a rash of opposition from faith leaders, law enforcement, and prosecutors.