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Oklahoma Lawmakers are Trying to Reclassify Nonviolent Drug Crimes as Felonies

Voters wanted misdemeanor charges, but their representatives don't agree.

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With the state’s prisons overflowing and unfair punishments for nonviolent offenders, Oklahomans went to the polls last November and voted to reduce a number of drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

But now, only a few months after the ballot measure passed with 58% of the vote, Oklahoma lawmakers are attempting to reverse their constituents decision and reclassify offenses as more serious crimes.

Oklahoma Senator Ralph Shortey introduced Senate Bill 512, a piece of legislature that would roll back all of the felony reforms.

If SB512 passes, possession of any Schedule I or Schedule II drug would be a felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of at least $5,000. For a second offense those punishments double, and if you’re charged with possession a third time, you will be required to serve at least four years in jail.

Thankfully, the bill excludes marijuana from the felony list, but simple weed possession would still be a misdemeanor crime carrying a punishment of up to one year in jail. But a second marijuana possession charge would be a felony, resulting in a 1-5 year sentence.

On the felony list, SB512 would allow for five year sentences for first time possession of cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, Adderall, Ritalin, and other federally scheduled drugs. 

To make matters even more absurd, SB512 has a provision that would double the punishments for any possession or sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of any school ground, including public and private universities. That means that buying a $20 bag of weed at Oklahoma State University could land you years in jail and fines that surpass your student loan debt.

Over 25% of Oklahoma’s prison population consists of drug offenders, and the state’s voters let their voices be heard in November that they wanted reform, but unless they speak out again, it appears lawmakers will reverse that work and continue to throw fuel on the dumpster fire that is the war on drugs.

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