OK Lawmaker Pushing Bill For Lighter Marijuana Penalties

Wednesday, February 27th 2013, 9:39 pm
By: News 9

Marijuana possession penalties could be reduced under a new bill making its way through the state legislature.

Right now, a second offense will land you a felony charge and two to 10 years in jail. But one lawmaker wants to make first and second offenses a misdemeanor.

The bill has already passed unanimously though the House Public Safety Committee, 14-0. Rep. Cory Williams says it just doesn't make sense to burden someone with a felony in Oklahoma, when possessing marijuana is legal in some states.

"We did kind of three strikes, and you're out situation," said Williams.

But if he had his way, personal possession of marijuana would always be a misdemeanor no matter how many times you're arrested and charged.

"We have one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation and a lot of those are for what we consider low level, non-violent drug offenses. And certainly marijuana is leading that," said Williams.

Right now, if you're caught with marijuana a second time, it's automatically a felony. Williams says his bill is not necessarily a step toward legalizing it in the state, but making a rational punishment that fits the crime.

"A lot of judges already have the flexibility to allow somebody to plead down misdemeanors and get a suspended or deferred sentence," said Mark Woodward with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.  

Woodward says the way the bill is written, it's really not going to change anything as far as the judges sentencing in a particular case. 

"And often times, judges allow them the opportunity to avoid jail time, go get yourself cleaned up and check yourself into treatment, and stay out of trouble," said Woodward.

Williams admits his bill is just a small step.

"We just kind of keep working on it until we get some crimes and some punishments that really make sense," said Williams.  

There's a maximum one-year sentence for a misdemeanor charge. Williams is confident his bill will make it to the house floor.