By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6
TULSA, OKLAHOMA – A pot bust in Wagoner County Friday yielded about $300,000 worth of marijuana from about 300 plants.
Regardless of what other drugs come along or how popular they become, marijuana is still the number one drug in Oklahoma.
While that hasn't changed, some things about the drug have. Today's marijuana is more potent and cartels are replacing the "mom and pop" growers. Marijuana is easy to grow, easy to come by and inexpensive, basically a cheap high. But who's producing it and how, are changing.
Agents busted six cartel grows in Oklahoma recently, some with more than 30,000 plants. They found a Mexican cartel growing near Nowata in May.
In the past, agents would find individuals growing a couple of dozen plants, but, now these types of massive operations involve tens of thousands of plants, complete with irrigation pipes and sophisticated growing practices. It's becoming more common.
"Cartels are a big operation and they have lots of money, a lot more than we do," said David Hale, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
In another recent case, agents confiscated a trailer and found nearly 1,200 pounds of Mexican pot hidden in the trailer's panels, being shipped to Oklahoma for distribution. They say, like other drugs coming from south of the border, today's marijuana is more potent.
"It's not like we used to have, where the THC content was 1 to 2 percent, even hashish was 6 percent," Hale said. "Now, we're seeing 14 to 15 percent THC now and that's just in regular growing marijuana."
David says many people don't see marijuana as a threat because people don't become addicted or overdose, but he says it causes deaths and is a gateway drug to more powerful ones.
He says local growers are thinking of new ways to avoid being caught, like one grower, who had pot plants growing in buckets in trees.
"There's no end, they're limited by their own imagination," Hale said.
Agents say as producer's change, so do the tactics of catching them. The cartel operations have been found on government land, federal land, even private property.
Hale encourages large property owners to check their back fields regularly. He also warns people who rent houses, that if someone pays you cash up front for months, it could be pot growers, who will trash your house and leave you holding the bag.