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Legal Pot Has Little Effect on Marijuana Traffic in Oklahoma

10-Feb-2014

Oklahoma is one of seven states that shares a border with Colorado, and because of that border, many Oklahoma officials feared that Colorado's legalization of recreational marijuana would lead to an huge influx of pot in Oklahoma.

So far, that does not seem to be the case.

Cimarron County is the only county in Oklahoma that shares a border with Colorado. That border comprises less than a third of the 166-mile length of the Oklahoma panhandle, and it is only a distance of about 35 miles from there to the Oklahoma-Texas border to the south. Prior to Colorado's legalization of recreational pot, the Cimarron County Sheriff stated that approximately one-quarter of the county's marijuana busts involved medical marijuana from Colorado. That percentage of pot purchased legally in Colorado but illegally transported into Oklahoma was expected to increase when our neighbor to the northwest legalized the retail sale of marijuana.

From Boise City, Oklahoma, to one of the nearest legal marijuana retailers in Pueblo, Colorado, it is roughly a 3-1/2 hour drive. The nearness of legal pot, however, has not seemed to bring the expected increase in marijuana arrests along U.S. 287 through Cimarron County.

According to a local news report, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs reports that it generally finds a shipment of Colorado marijuana coming into the state every two to three weeks, and that frequency has remained stable since the passage and enactment of prop 64. Cimarron County Sheriff Leon Apple says that his department has not seen an increase in marijuana stops, either.

It is important to note that sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement agents cannot stop a vehicle at random just to check for marijuana. Most marijuana busts along the highway from Colorado to Texas through Oklahoma involve traffic stops for speeding or some other traffic violation. Perhaps more pot is passing through the state, but drivers are smart enough to follow traffic laws when illegally possessing legally purchased drugs. Regardless, the anticipated increase has not been realized.

Legally purchasing marijuana, whether for medical reasons or recreational use, does not allow a person to legally possess the substance in a state where it is still banned. Colorado law allows residents at least 21 years of age to purchase up to one ounce of pot from an authorized retailer, and there is no penalty for possessing that amount or transferring it without sale. Non-residents can purchase up to one-quarter ounce at a time. If you are from Oklahoma, though, you are advised to smoke your pot while still in Colorado, because bringing it into the state carries significant penalties.

In Colorado, possessing less than two ounces of marijuana in public carries a maximum of 15 days in jail and a $100 fine. In Oklahoma, possession of the same amount carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 on the first offense. A subsequent charge is a felony punishable by 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. 

Similarly, possession of 2 to 12 ounces of pot in Colorado is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $10,000. Possessing marijuana in that quantity in Oklahoma would likely leave you charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute, a felony offense punishable by 2 years to life in prison and a maximum fine of $20,000.

Drug laws don't cross state borders, and if you want to stay out of prison in Oklahoma, neither should your pot.



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