A bill reinstating felony-level laws for drug possession near schools earned enough votes in the Oklahoma House to pass, despite vigorous opposition from criminal justice reformers, The Oklahoman reports. The bill was heavily amended from its original version to earn enough support to pass the House, where it got just enough votes yesterday to move on to the Senate. The original bill would have allowed prosecutors to charge people with a felony if found with drugs near schools, parks, churches and other public gathering places. The amendments limited the bill’s scope to only school zones.
In November, Oklahomans voted to downgrade virtually all drug possession cases into misdemeanors. The criminal justice reformers who voted against the bill said the people spoke clearly about what they wanted. Supporters of the bill said voters weren’t told the state question eliminated what they described as drug-free school zones. “It’s not overturning the will of the people, because the people did not get a chance to vote on it,” said state Rep. Bobby Cleveland. State Question 780, which Oklahoma voters overwhelming adopted in November, made simple possession of any drug a misdemeanor no matter how many times the person has been convicted of the same crime. The change also repealed enhancements, which prosecutors could use to increase punishments to the felony level. That means anyone caught with drugs on or near a school would face only a misdemeanor charge.