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Weeding: Oklahoma Farmers Raise Rural Marijuana Concerns

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Editor’s note: This story is the latest in a series about Oklahoma’s rapidly growing medical marijuana industry and its effects on state criminal justice, agriculture, and government.

Enid – Marijuana has brought a lot to Oklahoma in the past three years, but for local growers, a whole new set of challenges have emerged as a result of the boom.

With the emergence of new outdoor marijuana plantations, rural growers in recent months have raised concerns about regulations and enforcement around planting permits, land sales, liability for herbicide drift, and rural water and electricity use.

Meanwhile, the number of cannabis cultivation allowed in September exceeded the number of wheat, pork, soybean, cotton and dairy farms, according to a recent letter to the Medical Marijuana Association of Oklahoma. From several farming groups in Oklahoma.

Farmers and advocacy groups continued to reach out to lawmakers and the OMMA, hoping for help.

Michael Kelsey, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, praised the recent work of OMMA and the Oklahoma Office of Drugs, but said progress remains to be made.

The Kelsey Organization was one of the signatories to this He called for the approval of growth licenses to be suspended earlier this fall.

Since the middle of 2020, he said, the OCA has been getting calls from members about the growing number of homes popping up all over the place.

“a lot of [calls were about] “The way property is acquired has been in cash transactions — that’s just not normal,” Kelsey said. This makes it questionable – not necessarily wrong, just questionable. There were also questions about it being foreign, domestic, or Oklahoma-owned. “{p ​​class=”tncms-inline-link”}New ‘Wild West’: Regulating the state’s medical marijuana industry requires a team effort

Growers on both sides of the cannabis currency raised concerns about land purchases, and agreed to increase sales of marijuana land.

Hemp grower Jade Green, founder and director Oklahomans for Responsible Action for CannabisHe said that the members of the organization have witnessed an increase in the value of agricultural land during the past year and a half.

“We’ve seen a lot of private equity firms, one led by Bill Gates, gobbling up farmland all over the United States,” Green said. “We’ve also seen a lot of foreign interests gobble up farmland, not just in Oklahoma.” “As the implementation process goes online, you’ll notice that these types of purchases start to slow down.”

Both Kelsey and Green said that in the first two and a half years of medical marijuana legalization, there were significant enforcement issues.

Now, with OMMA partnering with the Oklahoma Bureau of Drugs, more inspectors and more enforcement, both Green and Kelsey expect illegal operations to continue to decline.

“What we saw with OMMA, early on, was a lethargic reaction,” Kelsey said.

That changed when Adria Berry was appointed director of OMMA and as the state legislature budgeted the agency with money for more inspectors, he said.

“Now that the law has been in place for the past three to six months, this problem is going away,” Green said then. “A lot of people don’t realize it because they are still stuck thinking it’s out of control.”

Orca also suggested two petitions It aims to advance cannabis and enforce those policies.

Herbicides and marijuana

Marijuana is not processed with any chemicals and is considered a sensitive crop.

“Some herbicides can harm other crops,” Green said. “When there is an herbicide drift that kills a high-value cash crop, there are liability issues there. That responsibility lies with the person who sprayed it, to pay for the marijuana.”

ORCA suggested adding marijuana growth processes to The State Department of Agriculture’s sensitive crop registry.

Orchards, melon patches, vineyards and other delicate crops are listed in the registry, with a map available online.

Green said that in the three years since legalization, there have been nine lawsuits related to crop damage to marijuana from aerial spraying.

This year, he said, there were three. Of these three, only one was identified as a 2,4-D overspray (a general herbicide). A lawsuit has been filedThis is being addressed, Green said.

However, insurers are reluctant to write insurance to anyone due to the threat of marijuana’s high dollar claim, he said.

“There is also a lack of knowledge about crop evaluation,” Green said. ORCA works with people to help them understand how these crops are valued through different stages. Insurance companies don’t have the expertise to know how to value the crop, because it’s newer (legally).”

rural facilities

Hemp growers and traditional crop growers seemed to feel differently about the actual problem between herbicide use and utility infrastructure.

“There has been a huge increase in the use of facilities, because of the huge number of growths that have emerged,” said OCA’s Kelsey. “Some of these developing facilities require a significant amount of this resource, be it electrical, water, or both, overburdening the local rural infrastructure.”

He said rural water areas are under increased pressure.

“Talk to some of our friends at the Rural Electricity Cooperative and Friends of the Rural Water District, they are echoing this concern about the strains,” he said.

However, Green said he believes the pressure on rural water and electricity loads should be reduced as illegal operations are eliminated.

Additionally, he said, the problem isn’t the marijuana crop itself that uses more water than conventional crops. Rather, it is an infrastructure issue.

Hemp water is usually used for drip irrigation, which Green said is the most water-efficient method of irrigation.

“A cow drinks about 25 gallons of water a day, and we have 4.3 million cows in Oklahoma,” Green said. “We are really reducing water use, unlike traditional farming that uses center pivot systems. One of those can go through a million gallons of water a day.”

Green said the rural water and electricity infrastructure wasn’t ready for the cannabis boom.

“Better water infrastructure doesn’t hurt anything, and we know rural Oklahoma could use some help with that in general,” he said.


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