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How Legalizing Medical Marijuana Will Affect Oklahoma Drug Possession Charges

A full frame of marijuana foliage, background wallpaperIn late August, Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt submitted a ballot title to have a vote on legalizing medical marijuana in Oklahoma placed on the 2016 ballot. Pruitt’s action was based on a pro-marijuana advocacy group getting 67,000 signatures on its petition for legalization. There are still some procedural hurdles before the issue will definitively be placed before the voters, and the voters will of course to vote in favor of the initiative for it to pass, but the potential for a law legalizing medical marijuana raises the question of how marijuana drug possession charges will be treated in Oklahoma should the initiative pass.

The Medical Marijuana Initiative

The medical marijuana bill would make it legal under Oklahoma state law for those with a valid state-issued medical marijuana license to grow and/or possess marijuana. Note that this is different from other states which instead require a prescription but not a state-issued license. Nevertheless, in order to get the state-issued license, a person must obtain a recommendation for marijuana from an Oklahoma state-certified physician. The state is required to provide the license to any Oklahoma resident 18 or over who submits a valid application, and those under 18 must obtain recommendations from two physicians and have their application signed by a parent or guardian. Unlike other states which list out certain conditions that must be verified by a doctor to allow for marijuana, the Oklahoma does not limit use to certain types of conditions. If a person claims to have a medical condition but does not have a valid license, that person can face a $400 fine for unlicensed possession.

Under the initiative, the state would also issue licenses for the sale, growth, packaging, transportation, research and caregiving associated with marijuana. Furthermore, local governments will not be allowed prevent retail marijuana stores from opening through the use of zoning laws.

Existing State and Federal Law

Although the ballot initiative includes a $400 fine for those who possess marijuana and claim a medical need without having a valid license, it is not clear that the new penalty would prevent those without a license from facing the criminal consequences of existing Oklahoma state law for marijuana possession. Currently, simple possession of marijuana is misdemeanor and convicted defendants face up to a year in prison. But, should a person obtain a state license under the initiative, that person could not be arrested by state or local police for violating Oklahoma state law.

That said, marijuana remains an illegal narcotic under federal law, and so federal law enforcement including the DEA can arrest individuals for marijuana-related crimes under federal law. Under existing federal policy, however, there has not been significant targeting of marijuana possession in states where medical marijuana has been legalized.

Fight Back Against Oklahoma Marijuana Possession Charges

Because a criminal conviction for marijuana can be so damaging to your freedom and your future, it is important that you do everything you can to prevent a guilty verdict and/or a harsh sentence. Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney Patrick Quillian understands how to best fight your case and work towards a dismissal of charges, not guilty verdict, or favorable agreement with reduction of penalties and charges. Contact the office of J. Patrick Quillian, Attorney at Law, today at 405.294.4448 to schedule a free consultation to see what his criminal defense team can do to help you fight back against Oklahoma marijuana possession charges.