Driving in Oklahoma with Colorado license plates can get you arrested. That’s what happened to Boulder-based cannabis activist and educator Regina Nelson in McAlester on Feb. 18.
“We didn’t speed, we were minding all the traffic rules, but we were driving a rental car with Colorado plates on it,” Nelson, 54, says about being pulled over for allegedly failing to use a turn signal. A search of the vehicle produced several joints, pipes, bags of marijuana and at least one edible.
Nelson, her son Bryan Elliott Laufenbert and fellow cannabis advocate Michael Browning were each charged with felonies for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and misdemeanors for possession of drug paraphernalia. Nelson and Browning were also each charged with driving with a suspended license. The trio was released on $5,000 bonds from the Pittsburg County Jail. All three pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Oklahoma has some of the harshest drug laws in the country. Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute can carry up to a life sentence and a $20,000 fine.
“My client experienced what many people experience for having the audacity of driving with an out-of-state plate,” Nelson’s attorney Brecken Wagner explained. “They tend to get pulled over and searched and harassed.” He plans to challenge the constitutionality of the stop and search.
Now Nelson, who runs the eCS Therapy Center in Boulder, has published several books on medical marijuana, including 2015’s The eCS Therapy Companion Guide, and frequently speaks at cannabis events. She was in Oklahoma to advocate for State Question 788, a medical-marijuana initiative that will appear on the ballot in June.
The measure would legalize medical cannabis and set up a state-regulated market for the medicine. Oklahomans over the age of 18 would be able to acquire it with a doctor’s signature, while those under 18 would need approval from two doctors. There would be no list of specific qualifying conditions, and cannabis would be taxed at 7%.
On Feb. 26, the Senate House and Human Services Committee voted 6-5 in favor of SB 1120, which would allow the non-smoking use of medical marijuana for a number of conditions. It’s sponsored by Sen. Ervin Yen, a Republican from Oklahoma City.
Nelson seems to be taking the charges in stride. “We’re using this as an educational platform because we have a voice,” she says. “Law enforcement is very important to that effort, too. Every officer we encountered needs to know more about the issue.”
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