PCPD puts criminal cases on holds for moms who use medical marijuana during pregnancy

March 1, 2024 | Featured|Headlines|Police

By Brianna Bailey | https://www.readfrontier.org

Medical marijuana card holders have faced felony child neglect charges after giving birth in Ponca City. Police there have stopped forwarding cases for criminal charges until an appeals court weighs in on the issue.

PONCA CITY — The Ponca City Police Department has stopped sending reports of women who use medical marijuana during their pregnancies to the local district attorney to file criminal charges. 

Former Ponca Police Chief Don Bohon, who was named deputy city manager in February, told The Frontier in an email the city has decided to stop forwarding cases involving medical marijuana for prosecution until the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rules on the issue. 

The police department will still take reports on those cases, but won’t send the information to the local district attorney’s office to file criminal charges.

“When the appeals are completed and decisions have been made, (we) will then discuss how we handle these cases in the future based on those outcomes,” Bohon said. 

Ponca City police typically get one or two reports a month of moms using marijuana during their pregnancies, Detective Capt. Kevin Jeffries said. 

Ponca City made the decision to put cases on hold after The Frontieand The Marshall Project’s recent reporting on women charged with felony child neglect in connection with using medical marijuana during their pregnancies.The news outlets found that most women who face criminal charges are too poor to afford their own attorneys and that the cases hinge mostly on information gathered by child welfare workers. Most women accept plea agreements in exchange for probation. 

But judges in Kay County have dismissed the cases of at least five women in the past year after defense attorneys argued medical marijuana is legal in Oklahoma and the women hadn’t committed a crime. 

Kay County District Attorney Brian Hermanson has filed appeals in two of those cases, arguing the women broke the law because their unborn children did not have their own, separate licenses to use medical marijuana. 

Hermanson did not respond to requests for comment. 

The appeals court is expected to hear arguments in the cases later this year, potentially setting a new legal precedent in Oklahoma on whether using medical marijuana during pregnancy is a crime.

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