It’s obvious that there’s a bias problem when it comes to business and cannabis. If it isn’t legality staring down like a wall of prosecution, it’s legal grey areas causing issues. The most recent comes from Oklahoma. An Army veteran and cannabis business owner, LaRue Bratcher, is charged with murder after fatally shooting a man attempting burglary.
According to the limited police report, on May 26, 2020, Oklahoma City officers responded to a shooting at Bratcher’s shop, Premium Smoke. The 34-year old found 42-year old, Daniel Hardwick, attempting to break in for the second night in a row. After asking his intention, LaRue Bratcher fired three warning shots. Unfortunately, one of those shots fatally struck Hardwick.
Upon contacting the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, officers found that Bratcher’s license had expired. His case suddenly became a much different situation. LaRue Bratcher was subsequently arrested and $1,500,000 worth of his product was confiscated. After review from the DA, Bratcher started with a charge for growing marijuana without a license. Somehow, it escalated to adding second-degree murder and then to first-degree murder a few months later.
“Someone broke into his place… He didn’t go looking for trouble. He was in his own place of business.”LaRue Bratcher’s uncle, Derrick Neighbors to KFOR
Oklahoma City attorney, Jacqui Ford explained the hypocrisy of it: “…the Oklahoma Legislature permits self-defense if the person you defended yourself against was in the process of forcefully entering, or had unlawfully entered, a home, occupied vehicle, or business”. Regardless, it’s been nearly a year of Bratcher behind bars and those close to him wondering why.
Situations like this are becoming too normal in cannabis. As more states pursue legalization, businesses and entrepreneurs are left behind in the scramble of license restrictions and fees. All the while, others do the same with no issue simply due to priority. Additionally in Bratcher’s defense, the new market simply doesn’t have enough resources to deal with having no cap on cannabis business licenses.
When problems like these arise, we look for fair justice. When cannabis is the topic, however, that isn’t often the case. It’s a prop to make legislative hopefuls more appealing but good intentions usually don’t follow. The Biden administration has even done so, using cannabis as a campaign pillar but abandoning that tune once in office. Some states have gotten the social aspects of cannabis legalization ironed out better than others; but, the issues that criminalization brought on are woven deeper into the fabric of business than lawmakers want to admit.
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority updated its policy on licenses this year. It more recently allows cardholders to apply for a new license while still using their expired one until the new one comes in the mail.
Ironically enough, this just sparks another conversation on the potholes in cannabis legalization. When changes like this are made, how effectively and timely are they executed? Bratcher has been waiting for justice for nearly a year while the state has no real comment on the situation. As we urge Congress to prioritize federal legalization -or rescheduling at the very least- what about those in limbo in the ‘almost legal states? Is this the best we can do?
For more information about LaRue Bratcher ’s case and a petition for his release, click here.