Bill filed to legalize marijuana in Oklahoma

A bill has been filed to legalize marijuana in Oklahoma and place its regulation under the control of the state Health Department.
by Randy Ellis Published: January 26, 2014

“I'm just totally opposed to it,” Whetsel said. “Studies show it affects the brain, thought process and health much more adversely and differently than does alcohol.”

“My opinion is that it's bad for Oklahoma,” Weaver said. “There's always going to be collateral damage to any type of drug or substance or addiction. ... I think Oklahoma is struggling right now with prescription (drug abuse) issues and we've still got meth issues. ... I just don't know that legalization of something that can harm Oklahoma is a good thing.”

He predicted Colorado and other states that choose to legalize marijuana will face additional problems from addictions and traffic fatalities.

If marijuana were to be made legal in Oklahoma, Weaver said he believes his agency should handle registration requirements rather than the state Health Department.

“We're the experts, probably in the nation, on cultivation of marijuana,” Weaver said.

The bill introduced by Johnson would allow adults to legally grow and process up to five marijuana plants for their own use and the use of friends, if no money is exchanged.

It also would establish rules for commercial cultivation and sale.

The bill calls for a $50 per ounce excise tax to be collected from cultivation facilities and for revenues to be used to regulate the industry, with excess money being distributed to the state.

Fifty percent of excess revenues would go to the general fund, 30 percent to education, 10 percent to the Health Department for voluntary programs for the treatment of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana abuse and 10 percent to the Health Department for an education campaign.

Oklahoma currently has harsh marijuana laws.

A first offense of possessing even a small amount of marijuana is punishable by up to a year in jail and subsequent offenses are punishable by two to 10 years in prison. Individuals who sell marijuana can be imprisoned for up to life.

In addition to legalizing marijuana for adults, Johnson's bill would lower the punishment for individuals younger than 21, making possession of an ounce or less a civil offense punishable by a requirement that the person complete up to four hours of instruction in a drug awareness program.

by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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