Stillwater News Press

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February 27, 2013

Stillwater legislator: Marijuana laws ‘shortsighted’

STILLWATER, Okla. — A bill authored by a Stillwater legislator to lessen punishments for people charged with possession of marijuana will be heard by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

The House Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the Calendar Committee Wednesday morning. The Calendar Committee will schedule the bill on the floor agenda.

Under Oklahoma law, a second charge or subsequent possession of marijuana results in a felony charge with a minimum sentence of two to 10 years in prison and the lifelong stigma of a felony conviction.

State Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, has authored a bill which would remove marijuana from the list of substances for which a second or subsequent possession offense results in a felony conviction. The charge would be able to be enhanced on a third offense. It would not apply to those charged with distributing the drug, Williams said.

The legislator said the bill has a good chance of passing in the House but is not sure how it will fare in the Senate.

“We really have a shortsighted approach,” Williams said of the state’s marijuana laws.

He said that punishing young, nonviolent offenders — those he hopes to target with the bill — with marijuana possession for personal use becomes a burden to the state.

“It looks like we are being tough on drugs but it ends up costing us a lot,” Williams said.

Williams said it costs money to keep these offenders incarcerated. It also costs the state in lost taxes when offenders are unable to find good jobs due to a felony conviction or rely on government assistance, Williams said.

He said states like Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana while others have begun to relax laws. Williams said he doesn’t see Oklahoma legalizing marijuana any time soon.

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