OKC police chief proposes change to marijuana ordinance

OKLAHOMA CITY – Right now, those busted with weed can be thrown in jail. But that could change.

“Right now, we’re taking all possessions of marijuana, and it would be a Class B offense and it would actually, they would be arrested,” said Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty. “We’ve been arresting every single one of them. This would stop that practice.”

Citty is proposing a change to a city ordinance.

“The recommendation we’re making is to lower the fine of the possession of marijuana to $400 and it was set at a maximum of $1,200 and six months in jail,” said Citty.
“By lowering it to $400, this allows us to basically take it out of that court of record trial and we’re able to assign citations for the possession of marijuana. Now, that will be if they don’t have a state permit or license that allows them to have it for medical use.”

Good news for the historically crowded county jail.

“Let’s say you have a hundred people that get brought in. Well, then you have a hundred people that day that are getting thrown through the system,” said Mark Opgrande with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office. “You start to have less people than that, it takes less time to bring them through, it’s less taxing on our employees, it frees up more employees to do other tasks.”

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Councilman Lee Cooper, Jr. raised a concern regarding how much marijuana someone could have before being taken to jail.

“At some point, you reach a level of intent to distribute,” said Cooper.

Chief Citty then replied, “That’s a lot larger than three ounces and that would be a state law offense. You know, if there’s anything over that, really if it’s over the state law, which is three ounces, possession of three ounces, if it’s anything over that it would have to be fairly significant before we would arrest somebody on a state violation with intent.”

News 4 reached out to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, but a representative told us the proposed ordinance wouldn’t apply to them.

We also reached out to the Oklahoma County DA’s office about the issue and were referred to the District Attorneys Council.

“My concern with the ticketing process is one that it doesn’t address the addiction to drugs. When the district attorneys’ offices were handling these cases, requirements were placed on defendants to receive counseling for their drug use. The ticketing of these crimes, or the requirement of only paying fines does not provide any ability to make sure the person gets off the drugs if they’re on them,” said Brian Hermanson, Chair of District Attorneys Council.

The proposed ordinance will be up for discussion again on September 11 and again on September 28.