Oklahoma Senate Votes to Hike Penalties for Drug Possession

Mar 12, 2020

Credit Wikimedia

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Senate voted Wednesday to increase penalties for drug possession near schools, drawing criticism from proponents of a state question in 2016 that made such crimes misdemeanors.

The Senate voted 35-12 for legislation to make it a felony to possess methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine or fentanyl within 1,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school. The bill would not apply to people under 18, those enrolled as a student at a school or for people found in possession during routine traffic stops.

The bill’s passage upset proponents of State Question 780, a citizen-led initiative in 2016 that reduced the penalties for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. Oklahoma voters approved the state question with more than 58% vote after the state’s incarceration rate had become one of the nation’s highest.

Former Republican House Speaker Kris Steele, the executive director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, said it’s “mind-boggling that in an election year, legislators would act against the vote of their constituents who overwhelmingly approved SQ 780 in 2016.”

The bill now heads to the House for consideration.