Kanna Knowledge 

Your Source For News and Commentary on Cannabis
for the Insurance Industry

Subscribe to our Newsletter Updates


Despite the laws of individual states, all cannabis financial revenue and investment proceeds remain illegal under federal law — and for states hungry for revenue regardless of the way it’s derived, that spells opportunity. The leader in this attitude is Oklahoma, where asset forfeiture law is being enforced to a jarring level … not to mention that Federal prosecutors and agents will continue to enforce laws at their discretion until federal legalization finally arrives.

According to the Institute for Justice, a Virginia public interest law firm that grades state forfeiture laws, Oklahoma ranks a D-minus. This places Oklahoma at the bottom of the list, compared to the more than 30 states that have enacted reforms in recent years to place the burden of proof on authorities … and restores presumption of innocence to the property owner. (Some states including New Mexico and Maine have abolished asset forfeiture completely.)

Although recreational cannabis remains illegal in Oklahoma, the state is known for its lucrative medical cannabis program. With no limit on the number of licenses, and a lax residency requirement that makes “ghost ownership” ridiculously easy, the state has over 9,000 growers and more than 13,000 licensed medical cannabis businesses — attracting many out-of-state and/or immigrant buyers and employees who make for easy targets on the open road.

Take Canadian County, which devotes substantial resources to stopping and searching vehicles on Interstate 40. Two Vietnamese businessmen were recently stopped en route to their OK City hotel late one evening, while driving under the speed limit. The $141,500 cash they were carrying to purchase farmland was confiscated as “intended illegal drug money” under asset forfeiture, without any proof. Both men were interrogated in a police station for hours, and then released without so much as even a traffic ticket — but with the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office keeping the cash. Now the two are fighting in court to get their money returned, which means they have to prove their innocence.

This is similar to a well-known incident a few years back in Muskogee County, where a touring Christian rock band from Myanmar was stopped for a broken taillight, and the $53,000 they were carrying as proceeds earmarked for charitable donations was seized without any evidence of any crime whatsoever. It was only the subsequent public outcry and harsh media spotlight that caused the county district attorney to return the money.

Your clients may not necessarily do business in Oklahoma, but there’s a best practice for the industry that applies border-to-border. Have a contingency plan in any business agreements made in the event of asset forfeiture. Whether or not the business is licensed, whether or not the state has legalized sales, any property can be subject to forfeiture at any time if it’s determined by law enforcement — rightly or wrongly — as being derived from cannabis activity.

Image:  Caleb Long