An Oklahoma Water Resources Board official told lawmakers this week that one in three complaints the agency received this year is related to the rapid growth of the state's medical cannabis industry and a resulting proliferation of grow operations of questionable legitimacy in rural areas.
"The medical cannabis complaints have taken the place of the poultry farm complaints thus far," said General Counsel Sara Gibson, while showing a map with dots scattered in northeast Oklahoma, each a complaint related to water use. She said the agency has received 16 so far about cannabis businesses and that they are about one-third of all complaints received so far this year.
But Gibson said she doesn't believe the OWRB has significant enforcement capabilities or staff to address cannabis grows' water use despite what she said was "a big impact," particularly on rural systems.
"We're having a hard time matching up databases, so it is hard for us to just look and see 'oh here's a grow, I wonder if they have a permit, let's go out there and check,'" Gibson said. "So we are relying on complaints at this time. So if we get a complaint from a citizen or if you notice something, we will go out and investigate that.
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