OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KOKH) — On Tuesday, the Oklahoma State Senate passed SB 808, a measure that would allow the director of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to shut down cannabis operations causing damage to the environment.
Sen Joe Newhouse (R-Tulsa) authored the legislation, and argued that it will help reign in out-of-control operations in the state.
According to him, “They’re flaunting our laws. They’re not taking care of our land. Many are abusing our environment, and we need to stop this.”
In his view, the proposal would help prevent bad actors in the marijuana industry from harming Oklahoma’s lands.
“One of the tell-tale signs of black market operators is their destruction of the environment. There’s contaminants, there’s runoff, even sometimes human waste that’s not being taken care of,” asserted the state senator.
When sharing his reaction to the legislation, Travis C. Smith — the founder of Smokey Okie’s Cannabis — argued that the state needs to prioritize the enforcement of current regulations governing the marijuana industry over introducing new rules.
According to Smith, lawmakers and Oklahomans at large are blaming growers like him on issues related to the medical marijuana industry — but he believes the government bears responsibility.
“This legislature is fired up to pass a lot of anti-cannabis legislation, but until start enforcing the rules they have, against, against the bad actors, passing more rules just isn’t going to make a difference,” he shared.
In an interview with FOX 25, Smith criticized the OMMA, and said officials with the agency lacked the training needed to identify important areas in regulation noncompliance.
He shared that his operation got three inspections last summer because of its proximity to Oklahoma City — when the main problems are illegal operations flying under the radar.
According to Smith, “They’re not allocating their resources toward, the way they should be. I mean, there are thousands of illegal grows that they could walk in and shut down overnight if they just visited them.”
Oklahomans rejected an effort to legalize recreational marijuana on Mar. 7. Sen. Newhouse shared that residents in the state are frustrated with bad actors in the industry.
“I think this is going to send a strong message to the marijuana industry to say, look, we intend to stand behind our environmental laws,” he explained.
The Oklahoma House is now set to take up SB 808. Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow) is the bill’s principal House author.