A bill reinstating felony-level laws for drug possession near schools earned enough votes in the Oklahoma House to pass, despite vigorous opposition from criminal justice reformers.
House Bill 1482 was heavily amended from its original version to earn enough support to pass the House, where it got just enough votes Thursday to move on to the Senate. The original bill would have allowed prosecutors to charge people with a felony if found with drugs near schools, parks, churches and other public gathering places.
The amendments, however, limited the bill’s scope to only school zones.
In November, Oklahomans voted to downgrade virtually all drug possession cases into misdemeanors. The criminal justice reformers who voted against House Bill 1482 said the people spoke clearly about what they wanted. Supporters of the bill, however, said voters weren’t capable of understanding the issues nor researching the State questions.
“It’s not overturning the will of the people, because the people did not get a chance to vote on it,” said state Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville.
Thirty-eight lawmakers voted against it, both Democratic and Republican members of the House.
Another opponent of the bill, state Rep. Emily Virgin, said voters realized there is a problem with over-incarceration in prisons.
“They recognized that families are being torn apart and kids are going into the foster system because of our draconian drug laws in Oklahoma,” said Virgin, D-Norman. “We know what rips families apart. It’s not simple possession of marijuana; it’s a parent going to prison for five years.”
Below is how the voting went.
HOUSE BILL 1482 Drugs; making certain acts unlawful; effective
Biggs date; emergency.
THIRD READING PASSED
YEAS: 51 RCS# 188
NAYS: 38 3/09/2017
EXC : 10 2:15 PM
C/P : 0
VAC : 2
Babinec Hilbert Nollan Tadlock
Baker Humphrey O’Donnell Teague
Bennett (J) Jordan Ortega Vaughan
Biggs Kannady Osborn (L) Wallace
Brumbaugh Loring Osburn (M) Watson
Cleveland Martinez Ownbey West (J)
Cockroft McBride Park West (K)
Coody McDaniel Perryman West (R)
Downing McDugle Pfeiffer West (T)
Enns McEntire Roberts (D) Worthen
Faught Murdock Roberts (S) Wright
Gann Murphey Rogers Mr.Speaker
Hardin Newton Sanders
Bennett (F) Fetgatter Lawson Nichols
Blancett Ford Lepak Proctor
Bush Goodwin Lowe Sears
Caldwell Griffith Martin Stone
Calvey Hall McEachin Virgin
Casey Henke Meredith Walke
Condit Hoskin Montgomery Williams
Dollens Inman Moore Young
Dunnington Kerbs Mulready
Echols Kouplen Munson
Cannaday Fourkiller Ritze Thomsen
Derby Frix Russ
Dunlap Renegar Strohm
CONSTITUTIONAL PRIVILEGE: 0