Oklahoma Legislature revises medical marijuana program, considers decriminalization
Last update: April 11, 2019
On March 14, 2019, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed a "unity" medical cannabis bill, HB 2612, into law. HB 2612 revises the state’s voter-enacted medical cannabis program. While some changes, such as providing for lab-testing, are beneficial, others whittle away at patient protections.
Most notably, provisions protecting patients from losing their jobs for testing positive for medical cannabis metabolites (which can stay in one’s system for a month after use) have been seriously eroded: HB 2612 includes a broad exemption for “safety sensitive positions,” which includes any job involving driving, direct patient care, or direct child care.
Meanwhile, a modest decriminalization bill is working its way through the legislature. The House has already approved HB 2614, which would reduce the penalty for simple possession of cannabis to a fine of up to $400. Under Oklahoma's voter-enacted medical cannabis law, anyone possessing up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis that can "state a medical condition" is subject to a misdemeanor fine of up to $400. HB 2614 would apply even to those who cannot "state a medical condition."
If you live in Oklahoma, ask your senator to support this modest bill. The current penalty for marijuana possession is up to a year in jail, up to a $1,000 fine, or both.
Oklahoma medical cannabis law swiftly implemented
On June 26, 2018, Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana! Since then, the state has become the quickest in the nation to fully implement an effective medical cannabis law.
About two months later, the health department began accepting applications from patients, caregivers, and prospective medical cannabis businesses. Licensed medical marijuana patients and caregivers are allowed to possess and grow limited amounts of cannabis and to purchase cannabis from regulated businesses. (You can read our summary of SQ 788 here.) The first sales began about a month later.
Less than a year after enactment, Oklahoma’s program is already one of the largest in the nation. As of April 8, 2019, the Medical Marijuana Authority has issued licenses to 83,458 patients, 1,263 dispensaries, 2,361 growers, and 650 processors.
Oklahoma City decriminalizes possession; ask state lawmakers to follow suit
On September 24, 2018, the Oklahoma City Council approved reducing the penalty for simple possession of marijuana to a fine of up to $400. Until the new law took effect on October 26, 2018, the maximum fine for possession was $1,200 and six months of jail time. Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty recommended the ordinance, explaining it would keep the city safer by allowing officers to stay on the streets.
Penalizing individuals with jail time and a criminal record for possessing small amounts of marijuana wastes law enforcement resources. It can also lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses. You can find more information on decriminalization here.
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