Since State Question 788 passed in June 2018, cannabis has suddenly become part of mainstream life in Tulsa. The measure approved marijuana use for medical purposes. It requires a recommendation from a doctor.
Although it might be easy to forget among all the new dispensaries, grows and glass shops, cannabis is still not legal for recreational use in Oklahoma, or at the federal level. This means Mary Jane can still get you into a world of trouble.
Arrest and conviction can upend people’s lives, forcing them to run a legal gauntlet that can take years to escape. Kris, a pseudonym to protect privacy, was in the middle of home renovations when the police came knocking on his door with a warrant. This was 2014, a few years before medical marijuana passed in Oklahoma, and Kris was selling marijuana. Law enforcement had a hardline against cannabis, even as other states were moving toward legalization. “They had a controlled buy (a.k.a. a sting operation), and they got a search warrant signed by the judge,” Kris says. In media coverage of the arrest, law enforcement was quoted attributing street crime to drug deals involving marijuana.
The cops searched three separate locations — two houses, including the one Kris lived in, and a storage facility. Police seized more than 20 pounds of marijuana and $330,000 in cash from the storage facility. They also seized cash from Kris’ home. “When they went in, I had almost my entire life savings in there,” says Kris, who repaired and remodeled homes and taught swing dancing lessons. “Basically they took my life savings and associated that with earnings from weed sales.” Even though Kris says he had receipts proving that the money was from contract work, the money was seized.
Kris pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years of probation. He spent 12 weekends in jail, did community service and took a class for first offenders, for which he had to pay out of pocket. “Jumping through all the hoops takes a long time,” Kris says. “You’ve just gotta stop doing what you’re doing. Everything becomes secondary.”
In 2016 Oklahoma voters passed SQ 780, a measure that reclassified simple drug possession as a misdemeanor. This takes prison time off the table if you’re caught with a controlled substance for personal use. Furthermore, if you have faced a felony for drug possession in the past, you might be eligible to have it removed from your record. “There is no longer felony marijuana possession in Oklahoma anymore,” says cannabis attorney Jay Ramey. “If a person has a felony conviction for possession of marijuana, he can apply to have that expunged.”