A bill we have yet to consider this year on the House floor has caused quite a bit of a stir.
House Bill 1482 would preserve drug-possession-free school zones that otherwise would be stricken when State Question 780 takes full effect in July.
I’ve heard some confusion about this bill undoing the will of the voters who supported the state question.
What voters did not vote on, though, was the removal of these drug-free school zones. That is because voters did not have that language in the ballot. In fact, there was a concentrated effort to keep that language off the ballot.
You can read this argument for yourself here on OSCN: http://bit.ly/2nac2HL.
Instead, Oklahoma voters were asked to vote on amending existing Oklahoma laws that would change the classification of certain drug possession and property crimes from felony to misdemeanor.
Voters said yes to make possession of a limited quantity of drugs a misdemeanor. The amendment also changed the classification of certain drug possession crimes that currently are considered felonies and cases where the defendant has a prior drug possession conviction. The amendment reclassified these drug possession cases as misdemeanors.
No mention was made of children or schools or the removal of drug-possession-free school zones.
Even very informed voters, who took the time to study the state question in detail before they voted, would have had a hard time realizing the change would remove drug-possession-free schools.
Instead of spelling it out in clear language, only a reference to the statutory language amending 63 O.S. 2-402 was referenced on the State Election Board’s website: http://bit.ly/2mKlhkF.
This doesn’t tell voters what will be removed in very clear language. Once state school superintendents and teachers were informed that the new law would remove the protection of the drug-possession-free school zones, they have overwhelmingly voiced concerns and asked lawmakers to keep these protections in place.
House Bill 1482 would keep it a felony to possess drugs within 1,000 feet of a public or private school or a park or in the presence of a child under the age of 12.
These crimes could still be charged as a misdemeanor by discretion and options such as drug court and deferred or suspended sentences could still be used. The protection of our children and our schools is imperative.
Rep. Josh West, (R-Grove), serves District 5 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. For more information, persons interested may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-557-7415.