OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — Medical marijuana patients will have to wait at least another year to have their voices heard at the state house after a committee chairman announced this week he would not schedule an interim medical marijuana study designed to open the doors for medical marijuana legislation.
“The conversation has to start somewhere,” said Garret Overstreet, executive director of NORML Tulsa. “We hoped it would start this year. But we’ll be back the next year and the next year.”
State Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, has introduced several bills to allow medical marijuana in Oklahoma, and was trying to get an interim study at the Capitol this year with the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Overstreet said.
The chairman of the committee, state Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said he discussed the scheduling of the study with Johnson but decided recently not to move forward with the study.
Crain cited marijuana’s federally illegal status as the main reason for not scheduling the study.
“I don’t know how we can proceed with the legalization of medical marijuana as long as the federal law says the legalization of medical marijuana is against the law,” Crain said.
“Much like with alcohol prohibition, things didn’t change on the federal level. They changed on the local level,” Overstreet said. “In regard to federal enforcement, states are able to pass their own laws. We need to maintain state’s rights.”
Overstreet added that medical marijuana advocates had met several standards that Crain had for the interim study, including making available a medical researcher who could answer questions about the medicinal uses of marijuana for lawmakers.
Protection from prosecution for medical marijuana patients is needed in Oklahoma, who, like other states in the South, has harsh penalties for marijuana possession.
Possession of any amount of marijuana as a first offense is subject to up to one year in jail, and a second offense becomes a felony that carries a penalty of two to 10 years behind bars. The sale of any amount of marijuana up to 25 pounds can result in jail time ranging from two years to life in prison. Sale of marijuana over 25 pounds, or sale to a minor, will double that penalty.
Cultivation of marijuana in Oklahoma will be punished based upon the aggregate weight of the plants found as either simple possession or as possession with the intent to distribute, and could result anywhere from 1 year to life in prison.