After several years of an extensive federal investigation, a massive illegal marijuana operation was uncovered in Oklahoma City. The accused allegedly used a counterfeit Amazon delivery vehicle to transport large quantities of marijuana throughout the city. According to federal court records, the documents provided insight into how the perpetrator evaded detection for an extended period.
Brandon Ye, the suspect in question, is accused by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation of using an Amazon delivery van to transport illegal marijuana. As per court records, the FBI has been investigating this illicit drug operation since November 2021.
According to the FBI, Ye allegedly utilized his enterprise, Arch Granite and Cabinetry, as a storage facility and collection point for drug shipments. As stated in court records, YE drove the Amazon Van to visit marijuana cultivation sites in Oklahoma. There, he loaded sizable black garbage bags containing vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana and transported them to designated stash houses under his control.
Afterward, the marijuana was reportedly repackaged and transported to Ye’s warehouses situated in Oklahoma City. As per the court documents, at these warehouses, it seems that roughly once a week, a semi-truck is loaded with cannabis for transport outside the state.
In February, law enforcement stopped one of the trucks mentioned above and discovered roughly 2,700 pounds of marijuana packaged in more than 1,000 kilograms during a traffic stop in Indiana. Presently, the suspect is facing charges of drug conspiracy in federal court.
Mark Woodward, an official with the OBN, stated, over the past year, the Bureau of Narcotics has been targeting organizations that have migrated to Oklahoma and attempted to exploit its medical marijuana program. These organizations flout regulations and engage in various criminal offenses.
Authorities conducted 12 searches across nine farms in southern Oklahoma and three other connected structures in 2022. The investigation revealed that these farms allegedly transported legally grown marijuana in Oklahoma to other states’ black markets, including California, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, and Indiana.
Law enforcement officials report the seizure of over 100,000 marijuana plants and more than 200,000 pounds of processed marijuana, valued at over $500 million. According to Anderson, the raids across the state involved over 300 law enforcement officers.
Following Oklahoma’s legalization of marijuana for medicinal use in 2018, a large number of marijuana growers were attracted to the state due to low land costs, reasonably priced licenses, and lenient regulatory supervision. This resulted in a substantial influx of commercial marijuana cultivation in the region.
The yield of cannabis cultivation operations in Oklahoma has surpassed the legal demand of medical marijuana users since there are no limitations on the size of farms or the volume of marijuana they can produce. Of the four million people in the state, these patients make up 0%. In total, the state has licensed 2,600 dispensaries and 7,000 growers.
Authorities in Oklahoma are working to control the expanding marijuana sector, which has been linked to violent crimes and concerns from residents about the potent, unpleasant scents coming from facilities on an industrial scale. According to Mark Woodward of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, the organization is looking into over 2,000 farms that may have fraudulently obtained their grow permits.
According to the law, 75 percent of the ownership of grow operations must be local. However, Woodward stated that many investors from other states or countries circumvent this rule by paying an Oklahoma resident to serve as the majority owner only in name. State authorities are targeting these “ghost farms” as a strategy to combat the illicit market.
Advocates for recreational marijuana use faced a setback in Oklahoma when a ballot measure proposing its legalization for individuals over the age of 21 was rejected by voters. This occurred despite the state’s growing acceptance of access to the drug for medical purposes. Since medical cannabis legalization, medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma have been granted 2,890 licenses throughout the state. Oklahoma City, the state’s capital, hosts over 400 dispensaries.
The proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use was defeated by 63% of Oklahoma voters after 90% of votes had been collated. This is despite 10% of state citizens having a medicinal marijuana license. Voters in Oklahoma voted overwhelmingly (by 14 points) to expand the use of medical marijuana in 2018. However, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt, other politicians, and law enforcement organizations have resisted expanding recreational use. Last year, state legislators imposed a two-year moratorium on new medical marijuana business licenses.
Proponents of legalization have emphasized the potential tax revenue generated from recreational use but expressed concern about low voter turnout undermining their cause. Ryan Kiesel, who spoke on behalf of the Yes on 820 campaign, stated that Oklahoma must legalize marijuana, as individuals who do not possess medical cards have been detained and penalized for marijuana possession. But so far, the opposition is still winning.
The indictment of this huge illegal marijuana enterprise in Oklahoma City is a significant event that emphasizes the battle that law enforcement officials are still engaged in to crack down on cannabis-related activities on the black market. Large amounts of illegal drugs are transported over state lines using forgeries of delivery trucks, stash homes, and warehouses, demonstrating these criminal enterprises’ expertise and complexity. The case of Brandon Ye exemplifies the difficulties that law enforcement authorities encounter when trying to stop these kinds of crimes.
Paying close attention to the illicit cannabis market is crucial as it remains a significant concern for public safety and the rule of law, especially when Oklahoma is grappling with the growth of the legal marijuana industry. The detection of this sizable criminal operation underscores the need for concerted efforts to combat such activities and the importance of effectively regulating the legal cannabis sector. Only by continuing their work law enforcement organizations and legislators will be able to effectively oversee and supervise Oklahoma’s marijuana business, ensuring that it is secure, lawful, and free from the sway of shady characters.