Reviewing Defenses After Oklahoma Heightens Marijuana Penalties

Tracy Tiernan - June 15, 2022 - Drug Crimes

The Oklahoma legislature recently passed a measure that heightens penalties for people who purchase medical cannabis and sell non-cardholders the product. 

The History Behind Oklahoma’s Senate Bill 1367

After State Question 788 was passed, legislators needed to establish both a framework and guideline for the industry. This led to the combination of medical marijuana and criminal law reform, which enabled a person to lawfully purchase marijuana and then resell the drug to a person without a medical marijuana card and only face administrative fines. This ultimately constitutes drug dealing, but was punished with the severity of a traffic infraction. Senate Bill 1367 addresses this loophole and makes the activity a criminal offense.

Penalties Increased by the Bill

The measure increases the fines imposed on individuals who either intentionally or improperly divert marijuana prescribed for medical usage from $200 to $400 on the first offense. For second convictions, individuals face fines between $500 and $1,00. If someone is convicted a third time, the individual is at risk of losing their medical marijuana license. Additionally, the measure increases fines for either the sale or transfer of medical marijuana to unauthorized entities to $5,000 for first violations and $15,000 for second or greater violations.

One legislator commented that this bill is focused on penalizing the “black-market” industry for medical marijuana as well as people who deal drugs rather than college students who share marijuana with friends but do not exchange money. 

Remember, if you are determined to be in possession of an illicit substance in Oklahoma, you can end up being charged with possession with intent to distribute. This can, in turn, lead to serious penalties. The extent of the penalties is influenced by the amount of drugs you possess as well as what kind of drugs you are determined to possess. If you are charged with selling drugs, you should understand what methods you have available to defend against these charges.

The Future of the Legislation

The bill now awaits the signature of Governor Stitt. If Governor Stitt signs the bill, the measure will become effective on November 1, 2022. 

Potential Defenses to Possession Charges

Various strategies exist to defend against drug possession charges in Oklahoma. Some of the ways that a person can defend against these charges include:

  • Control. To be found in possession of drugs, the drugs must be in your control. If you can establish that you lacked access to the drugs, you have a strong defense against these charges. 
  • Intent. Drug possession with the intent to distribute is a more serious criminal offense. While law enforcement has no method to read your mind, the prosecution must establish that you had the intent to distribute drugs by demonstrating evidence of either previous statements or the surrounding situation. Some people are able to defend against drug charges by showing they lacked this intent.
  • Lesser charges. The quantity of drugs that you possess is routinely utilized to assess whether you had the intent to distribute drugs. If you own more drugs than one person would reasonably consume, the prosecution will argue that you had the intent to sell these drugs. Additionally, the way that drugs are packaged can suggest that a person is selling the drugs. If you are convicted of possession with an intent to distribute, you will face felony charges that carry more severe penalties. As a result, even if you avoid being charged with possession, you might claim that the drugs were for personal use and only be charged with possession.
  • Duress. If you were under duress at the time that you sold drugs, you might be able to use this as a strong defense. To be found under duress, your fear must be reasonable and you must not have means of escape.
  • Absence of a search warrant. Another way to defend against possession charges is to show that law enforcement lacked a search warrant and violated your constitutional rights by searching your property.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one is charged with a marijuana-related offense, one of the best steps that you can take is to promptly contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact attorney Tracy Tiernan today to schedule a free case evaluation.