Pubdate: Sun, 28 Aug 2016
Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)
Copyright: 2016 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Author: Barbara Hoberock


Controversy continued to swirl Friday over a ballot title rewrite for 
a state question aimed at legalizing medical marijuana.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Thursday released his 
rewritten version of the ballot title for State Question 788.

On Friday, the attorney general's office received several calls 
thanking the office for the quick turnaround time on the revision and 
questioning "our rewrite," said Lincoln Ferguson, a Pruitt spokesman.

The ballot title summarizes a state question for voters.

The revision includes: "This measure legalizes the licensed use, 
sale, and growth of marijuana in Oklahoma. There are no qualifying 
medical conditions identified."

Pruitt stands by the revision, Ferguson said.

"Unfortunately, the attorney general couldn't help himself and 
injected his own political views," said Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma 
executive director.

The end result is a very confusing ballot title that makes it appear 
like approving the question would be a vote for outright legalization 
of marijuana, Kiesel said.

Pruitt's ballot title ends with "This measure does not change federal 
law, which makes use, sale, and growth of marijuana illegal."

The U.S. Department of Justice in 2013 issued a memorandum on 
enforcement in response to states that were moving to make some form 
of marijuana legal.

"The ... memorandum provides guidance to United States Attorneys on 
the proper prioritization of marijuana enforcement in their districts 
given the number of states that have moved to legalize marijuana for 
medicinal, agricultural, or recreational use," said Peter Carr, a 
U.S. Department of Justice spokesman. "Specifically, the ... 
memorandum lists eight federal law enforcement priorities where the 
department will focus its limited investigative and prosecutorial 
resources in all states."

Those priorities are: distribution of marijuana to minors; revenue 
from marijuana sales from going to criminal enterprises; the 
diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law 
to other states; state-authorized marijuana activity from being used 
as cover for illegal activity; violence and the use of firearms in 
the cultivation and distribution of marijuana; drugged driving and 
the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences 
associated with marijuana use; the growing of marijuana on public 
lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed 
by marijuana production on public lands; and marijuana possession or 
use on federal property.

"As chief law enforcement officer for the state, the attorney general 
has a duty to uphold federal and state law and an obligation to 
inform the citizens of Oklahoma if they will be voting on a measure 
to become law that does in fact contradict federal law," Ferguson said.

Challenge planned

Supporters of the effort to legalize medical marijuana, a group 
called Oklahomans for Health, say they plan to file a challenge to 
the rewrite before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which could return it 
to the original language, rule for Pruitt or undertake its own revision.

Supporters gathered 67,761 signatures to get the measure on the 
ballot, although only 65,987 were required. It was the first 
successful effort among three attempts to get the issue before voters.

A series of deadlines and a potential protest mean the measure will 
not be on the Nov. 8 ballot, but could be on a special election 
ballot or a 2018 primary or general election ballot.

It is not the first time Pruitt has been criticized over a ballot 
title revision.

Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that Pruitt's 
ballot titles for two criminal justice reform measures were 
"misleading and partial." The court rewrote the ballot titles after 
supporters of the measures lodged a challenge against the Pruitt versions.



Original ballot language:

This measure amends the Oklahoma State Statutes. A yes vote legalizes 
the licensed use, sale, and growth of marijuana in Oklahoma for 
medicinal purposes. A license is required for use and possession of 
marijuana for medicinal purposes and must be approved by an Oklahoma 
Board Certified Physician. The State Department of Health will issue 
medical marijuana licenses if the applicant is eighteen years or 
older and an Oklahoma resident. A special exception will be granted 
to an applicant under the age of eighteen, however these applications 
must be signed by two physicians and a parent or legal guardian. The 
Department will also issue seller, grower, packaging, transportation, 
research and caregiver licenses. Individual and retail businesses 
must meet minimal requirements to be licensed to sell marijuana to 
licensees. The punishment for unlicensed possession of permitted 
amounts of marijuana for individuals who can state a medical 
condition is a fine not exceeding four hundred dollars. Fees and 
zoning restrictions are established. A seven percent state tax is 
imposed on medical marijuana sales.

Rewritten ballot language:

This measure legalizes the licensed use, sale, and growth of 
marijuana in Oklahoma. There are no qualifying medical conditions 
identified. Possession and use of marijuana is authorized through a 
medical marijuana license that is valid for two years, rather than by 
prescription. An Oklahoma board certified physician must recommend 
the license using the same accepted standards for recommending other 
medications, and must sign the application for the license. The State 
Department of Health must issue a license to an applicant who:

submits a valid application,

is eighteen years or older, and

is an Oklahoma resident.

Applications for individuals under eighteen must be signed by two 
physicians and by a parent or legal guardian. The Department also 
issues seller, grower, packaging, transportation, research, and 
caregiver licenses to those who meet certain minimal requirements. A 
7 percent state tax is imposed on retail sales of marijuana. 
Unlicensed possession by an individual who claims to have a medical 
condition is punishable by a fine not exceeding $400. "Local 
government cannot use zoning laws to prevent the opening of a retail 
marijuana store. This measure does not change federal law, which 
makes use, sale, and growth of marijuana illegal.
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