The Oklahoma Senate on Monday approved a bill to increase penalties for medical cannabis patients who divert products to non-cardholders, moving the legislation to Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) for final approval.
The legislation increases the fine for a person who intentionally or improperly diverts medical cannabis from $200 to $400 for the first offense, and from $500 to $1,000 for the second offense. Individuals could lose their medical cannabis license for the third offense. The bill also increases fines for sales or transfers of medical cannabis to unauthorized persons to $5,000 for the first violation and $15,000 for subsequent violations.
Republican state Sen. Lonnie Paxton, the bill’s author, said the bill fixes a loophole that only imposed an administrative fine for diverting medical cannabis products.
“As many Oklahomans know, when State Question 788 was passed to legalize medical marijuana, we were quickly thrown into a situation where we needed to create the framework and guidelines for this industry. Unfortunately, this led to the inadvertent mixing of medical marijuana legislation and criminal justice reform legislation, resulting in the ability for someone to buy marijuana product legally, but then re-sell it to a child or someone who doesn’t have their card, with only an administrative fine. Ultimately, this is drug dealing, but only with the equivalent offense of a traffic ticket. [The bill] fixes this loophole and makes this practice a criminal offense.” – Paxton in a press release
Paxton clarified that the legislation’s intent is not to target “college friends who are sharing marijuana product with no money exchanged” but rather “the black-market medical marijuana industry and drug dealers.”
“These black-market dealers are targeting and selling marijuana to our kids and others who don’t have a medical card,” Paxton said in a statement, “and we are giving our law enforcement officials the ability to do their jobs and prosecute these offenders under criminal violation of the law.”
If signed by the governor, the bill will take effect on November 1.