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Bill To Legalize Marijuana Introduced In Oklahoma

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Oklahoma, which has some of the strictest marijuana laws of any state in the nation, is considering a bill to fully legalize marijuana.

The proposed law, which was introduced last week by state Sen. Constance Johnson (D-Oklahoma City), would make it legal for adults over age 21 in Oklahoma to buy, possess and consume up to an ounce of cannabis. State residents would also be allowed to grow up to five marijuana plants in a secure area at home, out of public view.

The tax-and-regulate bill, which is known as Senate Bill 2116, tasks the state Department of Health with licensing growers, testing facilities and retail marijuana stores where the buds would be sold along with other marijuana products.

The bill would also significantly reduce penalties for Oklahoma residents younger than 21 who are caught with under an ounce of weed. The current law allows persons under age 21 to be imprisoned for a year for possessing even a crumb of cannabis. Johnson's law would instead require them to attend a drug awareness class of up to four hours in length. First offenders' criminal records would be kept clean.

Oklahoma ranks third in the country for draconian marijuana laws, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization working to reform marijuana laws across the country. In the state, the sale of any amount of cannabis will land someone in jail for two years to life.

However, the odds of the bill becoming law this year are slim. The state legislature has a history of voting down efforts to reform the state's harsh pot laws, evidenced last year when it shot down a medical marijuana bill. Even if the bill made it through the state congress, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has said she is against legalizing the drug because she believes it would lead to substance abuse and car accidents.

Still, Johnson believes the tides are turning. On the phone with The Huffington Post on Tuesday, Johnson cited a poll from August and September that showed more than 71 percent of state residents supported legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.

She says she just wants to raise awareness.

"I just want people to have the conversation," Johnson told HuffPost. "This is about education, and it's about compassion. Look what the criminalization of marijuana is doing to families. Young people in Oklahoma, 19- and 20-year-olds, go to jail for possessing marijuana. We spend taxpayer dollars to put them in private prisons. [When they get out] their lives are ruined. They cant get a job, education, housing."

The bill will be assigned to committee when Oklahoma's legislative session begins on Feb. 3.

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