Officials in Oklahoma expect to see more marijuana coming into the state now that the drug is selling legally in neighboring Colorado.
Cimarron County Sheriff Bob White told The Oklahoman he’s watched a steady flow of pot cross the state line into his county in the last few years. Traffickers quickly pass through his part of the panhandle on their way to Texas, he said.
“There’s nothing here to attract anybody to stop,” White said.
Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, said the new law in Colorado would likely lead to more cannabis in Oklahoma. The same thing happened after Colorado adopted medical marijuana in 2010, he said.
All this will doubtless feed the conservative anti-pot crowd in Oklahoma, but marijuana advocates see an opportunity for reform. Now that the tide has turned in Colorado, Oklahomans will see how much legal pot can benefit the public.
Organizers of the legalization campaign in Colorado anticipate the industry will produce nearly $400 million in sales in 2014, creating jobs, generating tax revenue and cutting crime. Norma Sapp, longtime advocate for marijuana reform in Oklahoma, said her state can share in that prosperity.
“I think it will show us that it can be done and the sky won’t fall,” Sapp said.
Colorado voters opted to legalize marijuana at the state level in 2012, as did voters in Washington State. The first retail pot shops opened their doors to customers in Colorado on Jan. 1.
Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, but the Obama administration has promised not to interfere with states that legalize as long as they enforce eight federal priorities such as limiting drug violence.
With few hitches so far in Washington or Colorado, more states are seriously considering legalizing. Voters in California, the most populous state in the country, could decide to make pot legal as soon as this year.
And opening day for the first retail pot shops in Colorado, Jan. 1, went smoothly enough that advocates were pointing to it as a sign of things to come. Sapp said the long lines gave her hope.
“They have freedom, and the world will see that it’s not going to hurt anything,” she said. “Nothing is going to change.”
Whether Sapp and her fellow reformers in Oklahoma can translate that hope into action is another matter. The state is about as red as they come, and the law there is especially harsh to marijuana users: Possession of any amount on a first offense is punishable by up to 1 year in jail, while a second offense is a felony with a penalty of 2 to 10 years in prison.
“When you have a felony conviction, it ruins your life,” Sapp said. “You’re never going to reach your potential. Your children are never going to have what they could have had. It’s embarrassing.”