Pubdate: Thu, 25 Aug 2016
Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)
Copyright: 2016 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Author: Barbara Hoberock


Supporters of legalization of medical marijuana on Wednesday vowed to 
press getting the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot, despite a series of 
deadlines that make it nearly impossible.

On Tuesday, state officials said Oklahomans for Health had collected 
more than enough signatures to get the issue before voters.

Supporters collected 67,761 signatures; the requirement was 65,987 signatures.

But a series of deadlines means the question likely will have to wait 
until June or November 2018, the next scheduled primary and general elections.

The state Election Board in a May 13 letter to Gov. Mary Fallin said 
it needed all the ballot information by Friday in order to meet 
printing, testing and federal legal requirements for mailing ballots overseas.

The measure's ballot title must undergo a review by Oklahoma Attorney 
General Scott Pruitt's office and then be subject to a protest 
period, both of which push it well past the Election Board's Friday deadline.

Pruitt's office has expedited the process and is working diligently 
on rewriting the ballot title, said Lincoln Ferguson, a Pruitt 
spokesman. The agency determined earlier this month that it was 
deficient, he said. The ballot title describes for voters what the 
measure does.

Legal options

"If we are denied the ballot, we certainly will consider our legal 
options," said Chip Paul, a spokesman for Oklahomans for Health. "We 
have earned that right."

If Fallin does not put the measure on the ballot, "we will fight to 
be on the November ballot," Paul said.

It is the third attempt to garner enough signatures to legalize 
medical marijuana and the second by Oklahomans for Health.

"It is just not looking like it is going to happen," said Joe Dorman, 
an Oklahomans for Health board member and former state House member. 
"We are still talking to attorneys to see if there are options out 
there. The law is pretty clear."

Dorman said supporters were hoping to have signatures turned in 
earlier but had to wait until the last minute to secure the number required.

The signatures were turned in Aug. 11 to the secretary of state's 
office to be counted.

"My goal from Day One was to get this to the ballot," Dorman said. "I 
would love for it to be on this November ballot."

Asking the governor to call a special election also is an option, Dorman said.

People will have to weigh the cost of a special election against the 
impact legalizing medical marijuana will have on the lives of 
Oklahomans, Dorman said.

A special election would cost upwards of $1.2 million, said Michael 
McNutt, a Fallin spokesman.

"With the budget crisis now, we know it will be difficult to spend 
any money for elections," Dorman said. "If things go the way we 
expect, it could be June 2018 or November 2018. We are still looking 
at options to see what can be done."

Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma executive director, said securing the 
signatures was a testament to overwhelming support for the measure.

"We understand that several deadlines may prevent this important 
question from being included on the November ballot but, 
nevertheless, we encourage all of those involved to move with the 
greatest of speed and urgency in an attempt to meet those ballot 
deadlines," Kiesel said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom