Editorial: Law enforcement has a powerful tool to track marijuana plants from seed to sale | Editorials

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The settlement of a lawsuit over the tracking of marijuana plants grown in Oklahoma is expected to put a dent in illegal out-of-state sales.

In an announcement last week, plaintiffs in the lawsuit said an agreement had been reached with the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority on a semen-for-sale monitoring system. Medical marijuana license holders will have 90 days to come into compliance and an additional 90 days to sell remaining unlabeled stock.

Voters in Oklahoma voted to allow the legal sale of medical marijuana in 2018 with 58% approval after a citizens’ initiative petition put it on the ballot. The spirit of the law was to encourage local producers and give patients another pain treatment option.

It is part of a national movement to destigmatize marijuana and recognize its potential benefits.

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Most medical marijuana farmers, processors, and distributors in Oklahoma do so legally. But bad actors in state industry have been a frustration for law enforcement.

Rural Oklahomans have seen vast tracts of land in remote locations invaded by foreign investors. These properties, some of which were purchased with cash goodwill, are then turned into locked secure facilities.

Law enforcement officials suspect that marijuana grown in these locations is then trucked out of state and sold illegally. Additionally, allegations of other crimes, such as human trafficking, have been raised.

The extent of this black market is difficult to say. But last week, law enforcement seized 100,000 marijuana plants and 2,000 pounds of bulk processed marijuana from nine Oklahoma farms after a year-long investigation.

By implementing a plant tagging system, law enforcement has another tool to take down criminals.

The seed-for-sale lawsuit brought by attorney Ron Durbin and Beau Zoellner, who operates a processing site in Okmulgee County for the commercial chain Dr. Z Leaf, alleged a monopoly in the breeding of Metrc, based in Florida, as a monitoring provider in 2020. Another concern was over fees that could affect patients.

The lawsuit resolution includes mandatory training and new enforcement regulations that include possible lawsuits. Reimbursement for radio frequency marking was not discussed.

We appreciate the efforts to settle the lawsuit for a fair and safe medical marijuana program.

More is needed to address issues within the industry, such as possible limitations on issued licenses or other types of inspections and documentation. But the seed-to-sale tracking system gives law enforcement a powerful, common-sense weapon in the fight against the black market.

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