MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

February 12, 2014

Pro-marijuana groups want option to toke in state

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Emboldened by the legalization of marijuana in two states, including bordering Colorado, hundreds of marijuana advocates flooded the Oklahoma Capitol on Wednesday calling for fewer restrictions on pot smoking in Oklahoma.

Two separate pro-marijuana groups — one advocating the medicinal use of marijuana and another pushing for full-scale legalization — held events at the Capitol that drew large crowds from across the state.

Holding signs that read “The Miracle Plant” and “No more jail time for pot crime,” protesters gathered on the south steps of the Statehouse and listened to speakers who railed against Oklahoma’s drug laws, which are some of the strictest in the country.

“There will be 30 people arrested in Oklahoma for marijuana possession today,” said former Republican state Rep. Porter Davis of Oklahoma City. “They will be booked, fingerprinted and photographed, and they will be haunted for the rest of their lives.

“The drug war is a war on the people.”

The pro-marijuana movement has an ally in the Senate in state Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, who drew a huge round of applause when she entered the Senate chamber from a gallery packed with supporters. The raucous crowd drew an admonition from the Senate’s presiding officer, who warned them that Senate rules prohibit clapping in the gallery.

Johnson has introduced a bill every session to ease restrictions on marijuana since she was first elected in 2004, but the measures are rarely even granted a hearing.

Her bill last year to allow for the medicinal use of marijuana failed in committee on a 2-5 vote, and Johnson said it’s doubtful her legalization bill will come up for a vote this year.

“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,” Johnson said.

Although activists in Oklahoma are energized by the passage of pro-marijuana laws in other states, there is little reason for them to be optimistic that Oklahoma will do so as well.

Neither Gov. Mary Fallin nor GOP leaders in the House and Senate have signaled a willingness to take on the issue.

“I’ve not heard from any of our members on that issue that would indicate to me it’s a priority over here,” said new House Speaker Jeff Hickman.

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