OK Senate

OK SENATE Lonnie Paxton

Another legislator seems to be looking to undo the will of the people in State Question 788.

Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, has been part of a legislative working group looking at needed changes to the medical marijuana initiative, and he has offered Senate Bill 1030.

In many ways, Paxton is on the right track. It was obvious after this summer’s passage of the initiative that the Legislature would need to clarify important issues and fix a few obvious mistakes.

Paxton’s bill does some of that, but it also completely changes the law’s effect on people arrested by police with small amounts of marijuana.

SQ 788 said plainly that possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana by anyone who did not have a medical marijuana license but could “state a medical condition” would be a misdemeanor; fines couldn’t be more than $400.

We think voters understood exactly what that meant: Regardless whether the person arrested had even considered getting a medical marijuana license, regardless of whether they actually had any medical problem that could be potentially treated with marijuana, possession of a small amount of the drug would be a modest misdemeanor for anyone who could simply name a disease. Simply uttering the word “glaucoma” would take a minor marijuana arrest off the felony docket.

Paxton’s bill would limit the misdemeanor provision to licensed patients who didn’t have their state-issued card in their possession when arrested. Everyone else would face the same criminal penalties in place prior to SQ 788.

That’s not what voters approved, and that’s not what the Legislature should do.

This isn’t the first time the state has tried to undo what the voters did in SQ 788. The state Health Board initially wanted to rule out smokeable marijuana from the law. Another legislator has proposed nullifying SQ 788 on a county-by-county basis. It’s as if the will of the people, clearly expressed in an election that is less than a year old, doesn’t count for anything.

We agree with Rep. Jon Echols, House majority floor leader and chairman of the task force, who said, “I think that’s a dangerous path on any initiative-led petition — to change what the people just said the year after they said it.”

As written, SB 1030 is unacceptable and should not be considered by the Legislature.

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