By Conrad Dudderar
Medical marijuana is negatively affecting Oklahoma’s manufacturing and farming industries, a state legislator told a Yukon audience this week.
“It really doesn’t have anything to do with the medical part or the access to marijuana itself,” District 43 State Rep. Jay Steagall said. “What it does have an impact on is access to resources.
“These big ‘grow’ houses are a huge drain on the electrical grid and water resources, among other things. There’s security issues that come along with this. It really impacts us as a state, more than we probably anticipated.”
Steagall, R-Yukon, shared his thoughts during the Oct. 5th Yukon Legislative Breakfast hosted by Archery Traditions of Oklahoma.
State Question 788 passed in June 2018 by a 57% majority of Oklahoma voters, legalizing medical marijuana statewide.
Large manufacturers often prefer to be isolated on an unincorporated property outside city limits.
As such, they now must compete for space – and access to water and electricity – with marijuana grow operations.
Oklahoma farmers and ranchers also are feeling the impact of legalized marijuana.
Rep. Steagall said he has friends in the agriculture production business who tell him they “literally don’t have water to feed their cattle because there’s so many grow houses in their area.”
The state legislator pointed to problems this causes to the livestock food chain and agriculture land management capabilities.
Production costs increase causing higher beef prices, he added.
“Ultimately, the consumer ends up paying for this,” Steagall told the Yukon Legislative Breakfast audience.
“We have to ask ourselves a real simple question: Would we like to enjoy a good steak for dinner or are we going to sit on the back porch and smoke a doobie? What’s most important to Oklahomans?”
Yukon realtor Genie Vinson, a former mayor, believes water is being contaminated by runoff from grow houses.
There has not yet been an environmental study conducted on how much marijuana waste impacts water quality, Steagall replied.
“We know what it’s doing to our water quantity,” he said.
District 41 State Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont, attended a recent interim study on medical marijuana land issues.
The Department of Environmental Quality wants more regulation of marijuana grow operations to determine the impact on water quantity and quality.
“We have a very low requirement for digging a well,” Crosswhite Hader said during the Yukon Chamber of Commerce breakfast. “It’s a struggle because I’m very ‘limited’ government. I think most of us are.
“How much do we regulate you because you are a legitimate business? You are not a ‘mom and pop’, though some want to be.”
Vinson added, “If you don’t have sufficient, clean water – then you’ve got nothing.”
Rep. Steagall participated in an interim legislative study on the manufacturing of firearms in Oklahoma.
“We have a much bigger firearms manufacturing industry than a lot of folks realize,” the District 43 representative said.
Study participants discussed how to attract “big-name” businesses like Winchester, Remington, Sig Sauer to gun-friendly Oklahoma.
One major attraction for those companies should be this state’s ready workforce.
Oklahoma has quality machinists and other workers trained in oil and gas, aerospace and agriculture who already are familiar with the firearms industry, Steagall noted.
After attending another recent interim study, the state legislator talked about how to better utilize local facilities like C.E. Page Airport west of Yukon.
“How do we bolster that for the aerospace industry?” he said. “It could mean a huge economic impact for the local community.”
Industrial space is “tough to find” inside Yukon city limits “but we are a great community for growing families” to live, Rep. Steagall said.
C.E. Airport is in Oklahoma City but not far from Yukon.