Oklahoma drug agents fighting back against Chinese organized crime linked to illegal marijuana industry

OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) is cracking down on international crime tied to the illegal medical marijuana industry.

As first reported in The Frontier, Chinese organized crime is dominating the market. The investigative report points to gangsters from the far-east as being the driving force in the industry.

Oklahoma drug agents say they are making busts daily and although our numbers of illegal marijuana growers have dropped well over 60 percent, officials say Chinese organized crime tied to the industry continues to be a problem.

“We’ve been able to identify these groups. We’ve arrested several hundred individuals, shut down several thousand farms, and now every single license application that is sent to us is going under a microscope… That has helped us go from about 9,400 growers down to 3,200,” said Mark Woodward, OBN Public Information Officer.

OBN officials say criminal grows in the state has drastically dropped with their push to shut down illegal international groups.

“We have kind of flipped the script from being seen nationally as the ‘Wild West of Weed’ three years ago to having a reputation today as ‘don’t go to Oklahoma because you’re going to be put under a microscope and vetted and you’re probably going to jail,”’” said Woodward.

However, illegal Chinese criminal groups continue to dominate the industry in Oklahoma and drug agents claim they are funneling profits back to China.

OBN officials say they make up nearly 75 percent of the industry in Oklahoma.

“They’re crippling the legitimate 25 percent that are actually trying to follow the laws and do it right,” said Woodward.

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Authorities stress these groups are dangerous. They’ve linked these organizations to human trafficking, money laundering and numerous violent crimes.

“These are violent, dangerous people who don’t care who they hurt because, you know, they’re making billions of dollars in profits and absolutely destroying the legitimate market,” said Woodward.

This problem started back in 2020 when Chinese groups brought illegal business to Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) has made progress in halting international criminal organizations as well, but officials stress they aren’t targeting a specific group.

“Our commitment to fairness and equity is unwavering and we want to assure the public and the medical marijuana industry that we don’t target any licensee, that our compliance and enforcement efforts are conducted impartially without bias and we remain dedicated to upholding those principles, ensuring a level playing field for all,” said Porsha Riley, Public Relations Manager for the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority.

OMMA sent KFOR the following data: 

2023-2024 compliance and enforcement efforts:

  • Filed over 1,400 administrative actions 

  • Reviewed and closed hundreds of complaints 

  • Assisted agencies across the state 165 times  


  • 5.5 tons of cannabis  

  • 123,358 plants  

  • Entire dispensary  


  • 5.7 tons of cannabis  

  • 214,000 units  

  • Over 82,000 plants 

OBN officials say the issue is a problem in all 77 counties. They say the problem started back during the pandemic in 2020. Oklahoma stayed open while many other states shut down. That allowed these criminal Chinese groups to infiltrate the state and set up shop.

“A lot of them started coming to Oklahoma because we were not locked down. We had cheap licenses, cheap land, some of the loosest regulations in the country. Plus, you had entities in Oklahoma saying, we’ll help you get you a license in Oklahoma,” said Woodward.

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