The Norman Transcript

February 12, 2014

Senator announces new nonpartisan alliance to reform marijuana policy in Oklahoma

Provisions regarding hemp cultivation in the recently approved Farm Bill

Transcript Staff
The Norman Transcript

OKLAHOMA CITY — Senator Connie Johnson and former State Rep. Porter Davis announced a new alliance Wednesday to reform marijuana policy in Oklahoma. Johnson, a Democrat, and Davis, a Republican, share a common interest in ending marijuana prohibition in the state for medicinal, decriminalization and industrial purposes.

“The War on Drugs has utterly failed to achieve its stated intent. Instead, this costly program has violated rights, destroyed lives and families, militarized police and given us record prison populations,” said Johnson, D-Oklahoma County. “Half of all Oklahoma prisoners in Oklahoma are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses, with communities of color experiencing incarceration at twice the rate of whites. Prohibition has created an illegal market that funds drug cartels and brings violence into our communities.”

This session, Johnson has filed Senate Bill 2116, which would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Public Safety Committee but the committee chair has told Johnson he will not hear the bill.

“There are good reasons 20 States have at least decriminalized marijuana, and two have legalized it,” said Davis, coordinator of the Gold State Initiative. “Nationally, over half the population is for legalization. A recent Sooner Poll shows 71 percent of Oklahomans support medical marijuana, with 57 percent supporting decriminalization. There are no factual or logical arguments that support continuing marijuana prohibition.”

Johnson said the alliance will work to reform marijuana policy through the legislative process as well as the initiative petition process if needs be.

“We are coming together to call on the legislators of both parties, and the Governor, to quit avoiding this issue for fear of not getting re-elected, to stop playing politics, and to act like the statesmen and women the people elected us to be. We simply want to have the conversation in order to provide factual information to every legislator and the Governor so they no longer only rely on erroneous information, or the 'Reefer Madness' propaganda used to justify criminalizing this beneficial plant,” Johnson said.

“We call on our representatives to act courageously on the truth and neither perpetuate, nor pander, to ignorance. They can analyze the facts and explain to their constituencies the reasoning behind their actions. Every day we fail to do the right thing, additional lives are needlessly destroyed by this insane policy,” said Davis.

Johnson noted that regulating and taxing marijuana would be financially beneficial to the state.

“When we regulate and tax marijuana just like we do alcohol, we will save at least $30 million a year on incarceration costs alone, and add even more than that through taxation,” Johnson said.

Davis went on to note the economic boost that reforms would provide for the state’s agriculture industry, which is the largest in the state.

“Legalization will mean a huge boost in agriculture in Oklahoma given that hemp is indigenous to the state and provisions regarding hemp cultivation in the recently approved Farm Bill. I plan to do everything possible to recruit and empower candidates to run against all incumbents who oppose this bill,” stated Davis.

Other speakers at Johnson’s press conference were Dr. Katherine Scheirman, Fellow, American College of Physician Executives; Attorney David Slane; and citizen activist Chris Fairchild.

For more information, call Sen. Johnson at 521-5531.