Hash and Burn in Oklahoma

By Dirk Hanson 04/29/11

A popular new bill just passed in Oklahoma may doom people in possession of hash to a lifetime in prison.  

Oklahoma's proposed hash laws may be the toughest in the nation.
Photo via stonerforums

Here’s an interesting reverse-field play being attempted by Oklahoma, that most progressive of Tornado Belt states. Members of the star Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill,  by a 44-2 vote, that may result in a mandatory life sentence for anyone converting marijuana into hash. The bill, which recently passed by a similar;u lopsided vote in the House, is now sitting on the Governor’s desk, awaiting his final signature. According to the Tulsa World, Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs—the agency that first cooked up the hare-brained scheme—claims the intent of the bill was to "send a message" that illegal drugs won't be tolerated in Oklahoma. We should hope not—although simple possession of marijuana in Oklahoma, even for repeat offenders, only nets an absolute maximum of 10 years in prison, subject to conditional discharges, good behavior, etc. So why did the state decide to pioneer a new life-in-prison category of drug felony for hash? Chalk it up to good old-fashioned Okie ingenuity. But pharmacologically, the new law makes little sense.. As a nation, we have just gotten to the point of removing the substantial inequities between prison sentences for crack and for powdered cocaine. Now Oklahoma wants to play the same game with marijuana. According to stopthedrugwar.org, “Oklahoma legislative analysts claim the bill would cost the state $56 per day, or more than $20,000 a year, for each day someone is imprisoned. At this rate, if Oklahoma imprisoned five hash-makers for 10 years each, the bill to taxpayers would be one million dollars.” Shrewd thinking, Oklahoma. For a state that is currently carrying a debt burden of $14,000 per family, surely residents won’t mind footing the bill for sending the message that when it comes to hash, Oklahoma has drawn the line.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]