Though the State Election Board certified the passage of State Question 788 by 122,406 votes Tuesday, many issues are still up in the air regarding the legalities of medical cannabis.
Last July, Oklahoma voters passed criminal drug reform with State Question 780, which reduced most drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors. Medical cannabis, pending regulations set forth by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, may further lower the number of possession and similar charges, at least for those licensed to have it once the state begins issuing permits.
Some, like local attorney Jason May, believe some law enforcement entities may be looking to find more creative ways of charging some alleged criminals with heftier crimes.
“The District Attorney will still find ways to charge people with felonies,” May said. Any misstep is fair game, May said. As the rules may change, it could prove difficult for medical cannabis and law enforcement alike to stay within regulations.
Carter County’s District Attorney, Craig Ladd, disagrees.
“I have seen no evidence of law enforcement officers or the DA’s office looking for more creative ways to charge people with felony level drug offenses,” Ladd said. “I do not believe there is any reliable data to support such a claim.” Ladd said they are working together to enforce the laws that are currently in effect.
When possession of drugs such as meth, cocaine, and heroin amounted to a felony prior to July 1, 2017, those charges represented approximately a third of the felonies prosecuted in Carter County each year, Ladd said.  According to the Carter County Court Clerk, the number of felonies filed from July 2016 through June 2017 in Carter County totaled 855, with the following one-year period having only 540. This amounts to a 33 percent reduction in felony cases filed since 780 took effect. Ladd also said he is not aware of any coordinated effort to place a greater enforcement emphasis on possessors of cannabis since the passage of SQ788.
May said that as a criminal attorney there is potential for the legal possession of medical cannabis to affect his bottom line, however he still advocated for the measure.
“I’m not in favor of legislators telling medical professionals how to treat their patients,” May said. “I think there is little potential for marijuana related DUI charges, even though it shows up in your system longer than some other substances.” May said a National Highway Traffic Safety study showed that cannabis intoxicates the user for 20 minutes to two hours, whereas alcohol levels continue to rise for several hours after consuming it. “Unless someone is smoking while driving it is just unlikely they would be significantly impaired,” May said.