Wolfe: Marijuana legal battles

Tom Wolfe is a trial attorney and commercial litigator whose practice is focused on complex business cases including product liability, oil and gas, mass tort and class action defense. Tom is also the president and managing partner at Phillips Murrah.

By Tom Wolfe, Published April 10, 2013 in The Journal Record monthly legal column, Gavel to Gavel.

Gavel to Gavel: Up in smoke

Dude! What do Colorado and Washington have in common? They both recently legalized the sale and use of marijuana.

Though both laws conflict with federal prohibitions, the Obama administration indicated it has more important issues on its calendar, such as Iran, North Korea and gun legislation.

In fact, there is pending federal legislation to remove pot from under the Controlled Substances Act and place an excise tax on its sale. If you can’t beat them, join them!

Eighteen states have laws in place permitting the sale and use of pot for medical purposes. State Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, spent the last six years just trying to get a hearing on her proposal to allow medically qualified people to possess 8 ounces or 12 plants.

She finally got that hearing a month ago, only to see her proposal go up in smoke in a 6-2 vote by the unsympathetic Senate Health and Human Services Committee. She also wants to reduce the penalty, currently set at one year in jail, for possession of 1.5 ounces of pot or less to a maximum of 10 days in jail and a $200 fine.

Proponents of the pot legalization say the proscription against it is misplaced. They argue legalization will bring revenue into the state, reduce prison overcrowding and basically cause people to chill out.

Opponents challenge pot’s medical value, claiming it is a gateway drug to the big stuff. They distinguish wine, beer and whiskey on the basis that drinking is great fun.

Oklahoma has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the United States. No one disputes that many prisoners are nonviolent offenders in jail on minor drug charges. Moreover, the cost in lives and money to enforce anti-pot laws and penalize violators is enormous. Just ask Mexico.

Nationally, it is estimated there are more than 750,000 arrests each year for pot possession. Yet, Cheech and Chong turned out OK, didn’t they?

Speaking of statistics, the highest charting pot tune of the ‘70s and maybe of all time was not, regrettably, written by the Doobie Brothers, but, rather, Brewer and Shipley. You might remember One Toke Over the Line.

“Sittin’ downtown in a railway station, one toke over the line.”

I’m sure they were using it for medical purposes.