OK House Approves Bill Changing Drug Possession Charges Back To Felonies

Thursday, March 9th 2017, 3:56 pm
By: News On 6

The Oklahoma House passed a bill Thursday that counteracts state questions approved by voters last fall.

Voters approved State Question 780 and 781 in November. SQ 780 reduced drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors. Under the terms of SQ 781, the savings from reduced incarceration rates would be sent to mental health and addiction treatment at the county level. 

House Bill 1482, which passed 51-38 Thursday, includes “enhancement zones” that would make drug possession a felony within 1,000 feet of daycares, schools, parks  and churches. That would include large portions of Tulsa and Oklahoma.

HB 1482 now heads to a Senate committee.

Governor Mary Fallin, appearing at an event in Tulsa on Thursday afternoon, said she's against the idea and that voters knew what they were doing when they approved the state questions. She stopped short of saying she'd veto the bill if it makes it to her desk.

Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, released the following statement on the passage:

"The Tulsa Regional Chamber and the OneVoice regional legislative coalition are disappointed by the House’s passage of legislation that rolls back much-needed criminal justice reforms.

Over-criminalizing low-level drug possession has substantially contributed to a 500 percent increase in Oklahoma’s prison population since 1980. This costs Oklahoma taxpayers millions of dollars and needlessly gives thousands of Oklahomans' felony convictions that prevent them from finding work, contributing to workforce shortages.

Safeguards for children against drug dealers remain in place under State Question 780, and it is still a felony to distribute drugs around schools and children. HB 1482 merely reinstitutes the over-criminalization of low-level drug offenses in much of the state, putting nearly a quarter of Tulsa County residents back into a felony drug possession zone. The business community strongly opposes this attempt to turn back the clock on criminal justice reform, and we look forward to working with the Senate to ensure the will of the voters is upheld."