In a deep-red state that became the nation’s hottest marijuana market, keeping regulations to a minimum didn’t keep the bad guys out.
LOVE COUNTY, Okla. — Shortly after sunrise on July 22, a dozen or so police officers from across Oklahoma descended on a property about 15 miles north of the Texas border. They moved past the fence with the “No Trespassing” signs and the pink building with the aluminum roof toward a collection of hoop houses. They didn’t know much about the occupants, although the cops strongly suspected they were of Chinese descent.
“We pulled in like gangbusters,” recalled Love County Sheriff Marty Grisham, on a recent weekday afternoon. “The guy who spoke Mandarin got on the loudspeaker, and I don’t know what he was saying, but I’m sure: ‘Come out with your hands up,’ or that sort of thing.”
Ultimately, officers confiscated more than 2,300 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $3.5 million, and about $65,000 in cash. Two men — Zhimou Chen and Chong Chen — were taken into custody and officials charged Zhimou with cultivation of an illegal controlled substance. Officials said the farm didn’t have a valid license, rendering otherwise legal marijuana into illicit goods.