Headed to Tulsa to advocate for medical marijuana, Colorado scholar, activist instead arrested by OHP

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Regina Nelson, marijuana author, scholar and activist. Courtesy
A prominent Colorado medical marijuana activist faces felony drug charges after what she claim was an illegal search of her vehicle in Pittsburg County.

An Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper found large quantities of marijuana and several pieces of drug paraphernalia in the rental car Regina Nelson, of Boulder, and two companions were driving to Tulsa, according to a court affidavit filed in the case.

Nelson is a medical marijuana scholar with a PhD who tours the country speaking about cannabis as a treatment for a variety of health issues.

Nelson, her colleague and co-author Michael E. Browning and Nelson’s adult son, Bryan Laufenberg, each face a felony charge of possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute and a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia after an Oklahoma Highway Patrol searched their rental car during a traffic stop in Pittsburg County on Sunday.

Although the trooper claims in a court affidavit that he stopped Nelson for failing to use her turn signal, her attorney, Brecken Wagner, believes she was targeted because of the Colorado license plates on their rental car.

“It was really quite shocking and surprising and yet very Oklahoman,” Nelson said. “We felt we were targeted by OHP.”

Nelson refused a search of the rental SUV she was driving, but the trooper found probable cause to search it anyway after he allegedly smelled marijuana, according to the affidavit.

“We should have never had been detained or stopped in the first place,” Nelson said.

According to the affidavit, the trooper found several “rolled cigarettes with a green leafy substance” as well as two glass pipes, a peanut butter edible; a thermos filed with low-point beer; capsules filled with green oil and a backpack containing a digital scale and multiple baggies— also filled with a green leafy substance. A suitcase containing three large vacuum-sealed baggies of marijuana also was found in the car, according to the affidavit.

Browning said he owned the suitcase with the vacuum-sealed packages, but denied he sold marijuana, but would share it with “whomever needs it or asks for it,” according to the affidavit.

“Nelson said she freely shares marijuana with whomever is in need and stated she has a valid medical card from Colorado,” the trooper wrote.

A call to the Pittsburg County district attorney’s office was not immediately returned on Tuesday.

Nelson is one of the founders of the Colorado-based eCS Therapy Center nonprofit that promotes education and research projects on medical marijuana.

Nelson and Browning have speaking engagements scheduled this week in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to promote State Question 788, a measure on the June ballot that would legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma.

All three defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Possession with intent to distribute can carry up to a two-year minimum prison sentence for even a first-time offense in Oklahoma. The crime is punishable by up to life in prison.

Nelson and Browning plan to speak about their arrest at their next event with Oklahomans for Equality, 6 p.m. Thursday at the Black Box Theater, 621, E 4th Street in Tulsa. The event is part of Nelson’s 2018 Plant a Seed for Cannabis Education World Tour.

Nelson is also scheduled to speak Saturday at the Cannabis Education Advocacy Symposium & Expo in Oklahoma City. 

This story originally stated State Question would appear on the November ballot. It has been corrected.

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Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey grew up in Idaho. Oklahoma is her adopted home. Bailey has covered issues ranging from Oklahoma's strained child welfare system to the slow decline of Oklahoma's rural hospitals. She has walked all the way across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to south via Western Avenue and once via the old U.S. Route 66. Her hobbies are baking and crashing meetings she isn't invited to attend. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The University of Oklahoma. Email her at brianna@readfrontier.com
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