SB 2116: The Legalization of Marijuana

Oklahoma City, Okla._Marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington, could Oklahoma be next?

Not anytime soon, says one local state senator, and he doesn't plan on hearing a new bill proposing the legalization of marijuana in his senate subcommittee. Senate Bill 2116 would tax and regulate marijuana in Oklahoma and let people have small amounts, up to an ounce, for personal use.

Senator Don Barrington, Lawton Republican, says a similar bill was introduced in last year's legislative session and voted down, and that's why he says he won't hear the bill in his Senate Subcommittee on Public Safety. Barrington believes this is just another way to get marijuana legalized by changing the language of the previous bill.

"When legislation is passed, there are unintended consequences and I think the legislation I reviewed would lead to unintended consequences. I don't think parameters are put in place that can handle it," said Senator Barrington.

Barrington says a bill very similar to this one was heard by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last session and voted down.

"It depends on who you talk to. Some say it's a gateway drug, and leads to a more serious use of drugs. Others say it isn't," said Barrington.

Senator Connie Johnson, Oklahoma City Democrat, is the author of the bill. She says she is pushing to pass this legislation because of constituents who say marijuana could help them with their medical conditions.

"In my role as a legislator, I just view that this is what we do. We are responsive to our constituents to quote their voices, to put their ideas out there," said Senator Connie Johnson.

This is actually Johnson's fourth try to introduce this legislation, but she thinks this time it has a much better chance thanks to social media.

"The citizens want to be heard on this issue. Getting that message out and that word going. Getting people calling their legislators, calling the people that are in the positions of power," said Johnson.

Barrington's phone has been ringing off the hook from constituents upset with his decision, but he says rude messages and calls won't change his mind.

"I'm not here to judge her or her legislation. It's my job as a committee chairman to review legislation and, I don't recall how many bills have been assigned to my committee this year, but it's to give hearing to those bills that support good legislation," said Barrington."

The bill would de-criminalize the use and cultivation of marijuana and allow possession of one ounce for any person over the age of 21. A hearing on the science of marijuana will be held next Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Select Agencies. Marijuana advocates will spend the day talking with their elected officials about the proposal.