A measure that would no longer make second and subsequent charges of possessing marijuana a felony in Oklahoma remains alive, despite skepticism from several members on a legislative committee.
“I believe that while our constituents don't support us coming down here and legalizing it, I do believe that they support us being smart on crime,” said Rep. Cory Williams, author of House Bill 1835. “We're not being soft on it; we're not legalizing it.”
Williams, D-Stillwater, agreed Wednesday to stop a committee hearing on his measure so he could do more work on it, in particular, coming up with a maximum number of charges in which a simple marijuana possession could result in a felony.
He said he also would work with district attorneys to look at a weight measure, with the amount of the illegal drug possessed in a subsequent arrest determining whether a misdemeanor or felony charge would be warranted.
Under current state law, first-offense marijuana possession is a misdemeanor. But marijuana possession within 10 years of a prior conviction is a felony, carrying a penalty of two to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000. Possession of marijuana 10 or more years after a prior conviction also is a felony, with a penalty of one to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.
Williams said his bill would not affect those charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.
“This is just the smaller amount for personal consumption,” he said.
Williams said many of those convicted of possessing marijuana are young and don't realize they will be charged with a felony if they're convicted a second time.