Pubdate: Thu, 25 Aug 2016
Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)
Copyright: 2016 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Author: Barbara Hoberock
DEADLINES LIKELY TO KEEP POT ISSUE OFF NOVEMBER BALLOT
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.
“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.
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom