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Why Drugs Are A Worse Idea In Oklahoma Than in Other States

prisonerNative Americans – the largest population of any state other than California – and with about 20 big name country music stars including Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood. But there’s another aspect of Oklahoma which might be part of the inspiration for all those sad country song lyrics – the largest per capita prison population in the U.S. and with more than 50 percent in prison for drugs. Why are these numbers so much higher than in other parts of the U.S.?

Oklahoma has about 1300 per 100,000 imprisoned, about 700 of whom are there for drug offenses. That would give you the idea that Oklahoma is a pretty dangerous place but, in fact, the statistics are misleading. The problem isn’t the amount of crime, it’s the sentencing.

As of a few years ago, the most recent statistics available, Oklahoma incarcerated people at a rate nearly 50 percent higher than other states. The length of the sentences are also much longer.

First time offenders in Oklahoma convicted of cocaine possession, for example, even if a small amount, could get ten years in prison. If you are arrested within 1000 feet of a school or in the presence of a child under 12, the penalty could double. Subsequent offenses often double or triple the prison time and fines.

Selling cocaine gets you five years to life, with more time if near a school or a child under 12, and for subsequent offenses.

Oklahoma, in an effort to be tough on drugs, also enacted the three strikes law in the 1980s. Right now more than 50 people are in jail for life, without parole, almost all for drug offenses, and almost all non-violent.

Someone who grew seven marijuana plants in their backyard is spending longer in prison than a murderer.

Kevin Ott, for example, was first arrested for having a small bag of meth in his pocket. That was 1993. A year later, he was caught growing marijuana plants in his home. Then two years later he was arrested with 3.5 ounces of meth in his home. That might not sound like a lot of meth, but it’s enough for 100 to 400 hits. There’s 99 grams in 3.5 ounces and one hit is about ¼ gram – although seasoned addicts who’ve built up a tolerance may use up to four times that much (and even more). But at ¼ gram/hit, 3.5 ounces is 400 hits – obviously enough to be considering trafficking. For that third offense he was charged with trafficking and given life without parole. He was in his early 30s.

I have to admit that even though the sentence may not be ‘fair’ compared to sentences for other crimes, and drug addiction treatment may have helped him, there’s also nothing fair about selling meth. Meth is probably the most destructive drug around. It changes people so much in such a short time that someone who’s been on meth for a year or two are sometimes unrecognizable even by their own parents.

People on meth also become unable to sleep, go psychotic, get extremely paranoid and hallucinate strange things like having bugs crawling in their skin. Addicts are often seen with sores all over their body – partially from the drug, and partially from picking the bugs out.

Not pretty.

What do you think? Do you think it’s fair?

In any case, that’s the kind of legal consequence you can look forward to if you do drugs in Oklahoma.

Good enough reason to get off drugs? I’d say so. An addict will not necessarily agree – consequences take second place to the high – but if you know someone who’s on drugs in Oklahoma, and since you know and care about the consequences, it’s a good idea to help them get into drug addiction rehab.

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