House Narrowly Approves Bill That Changes New Drug Statute

Thursday, March 9th 2017, 4:39 pm

Back in November, voters backed a criminal justice reform package that would reduce some non-violent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. The new regulations aren’t even in place yet, and already lawmakers are voting to change them. 

The state House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday, that would change the newly enacted statute, making it a felony to possess drugs within 1,000 feet of a school. 

Opponents like Representative George Young (D) District 99 say the bill goes against the will of the people.

“Individuals clearly voted, knew what they were talking about, why are we trying to reverse that now?” asked Young.

Backers like Representative Tim Downing (R) District 42 say voters weren’t told that the statute would allow people who bring drugs within 1,000 feet of a school to only face misdemeanor charges.

“We would not be here, I want to make that clear, if they had voted on drug free school zones and said yes we want them gone I would have said ok. We’ll honor that,” said Downing.

Young asked, “What 780 created as a misdemeanor, are you not making that a felony?” 

Downing replied, “Does that allow for the enhancement of a felony that otherwise would be a misdemeanor going forward around kids? Yes sir, that’s correct.”

State Questions 780 and 781 were designed to reduce the prison population and use the savings for drug treatment and rehab. Representative Emily Virgin (D) District 44 says that’s what voters wanted.

Nearly 60 percent of voter supported the state questions.

“They recognized that families are being torn apart and kids are going into the foster care system because of our draconian drug laws in Oklahoma,” said Virgin.

Downing admitted, “Yes we gotta [sic] reduce prison crowding, yes we gotta talk about rehabilitation and being smart on crime, but you don’t just run over kids and you don’t just run over the protections of kids in schools and do those things.”

Virgin said, “We’re telling them no, we know better. You didn’t know what you were doing. We are the ones who actually know better.”

The bill passed 51-to-38 and now heads to the state Senate.