Signatures for recreational marijuana petition sees surge in support

OKLAHOMA CITY - A pro-cannabis group said they're close to their goal of necessary signatures to get a constitutional question about recreational marijuana on the November ballot.

Green the Vote, a grass roots movement based in Tulsa, is behind State Question 796 and State Question 797. John Frasure with Green the Vote, said State Question 796 is a constitutional amendment that would allow full medical access to cannabis, while 797 would legalize recreational marijuana.

"We’ve all seen how they’ve been hacking up 788. We get 796 on the ballot in November; they can’t hack it up. Constitutional amendment – that’s the will of the people," Frasure said. "There’s not going to be a limitation smokeables and stuff like that. So, it’s going to be full access to the full spectrum of the plant. We want full access to the full spectrum of the plant."

The group needs 125,000 signatures for each petition by August 8. So far, Green the Vote has collected at least 93,875 votes of State Question 796 and 104,372 for State Question 797.

"We had our honeymoon period where we’re getting a lot of signatures and stuff and, then, it kind of slowed down but, then, last Tuesday, it has just been going crazy," Frasure said. "Even people who voted ‘no’ on 788 are coming out and signing our petition because it was the will of the people."

Even with the surge, Oklahoma Secretary of State James Williamson told News 4 it is very unlikely the measures will make it on the November ballot. Once the signatures are filed with his office, he said counters must be hired to certify the numbers.

"It would, then, have to go to the Supreme Court to certify that there’s a sufficient number of signatures and, then, after that, there’s a 10-day notification process by publication to give people who might want to protest 10 days to file objections to the signature count," Williamson said.

According to Williamson, all of it must be done by August 27; however, this process historically takes about 60 days.

"To give you an example, the last time we did something similar to this, it was with State Question 788, which was just voted on, and that was turned in two years ago and that did not make the November ballot of the same timing issues," he said. "As the Election Board Secretary will tell you, there has to be a 70-day lead time for that proclamation because it takes them that much time to print the ballots, get the absentee ballots overseas for military for Oklahoma who vote absentee."

Frasure said the group aims to finish collecting signatures by August 1. Their goal is 150,000 as they anticipate about 10 percent of the signatures may be ineligible.

Williamson said one of the common reasons for signatures to be thrown out is if they are not legible.

Paul Abner, director of Oklahoma Faith Leaders, has released this statement on the measures:

“Oklahoma voters passed SQ 788 less than a month ago, and already supporters of the measure have realized there are many problems that need to be addressed. We are certainly against a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana. We also want to see recommendations from the Legislature on how best to move forward with a medical marijuana program that is genuinely medical and is safe for our families and our communities.”

Dr. Jean Hausheer, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said OSMA has not taken an official position State Question 797 at this time. The association has made it clear, in the past, while they are not against medical marijuana, they were against State Question 788:

“The Oklahoma State Medical Association has not yet taken official position on SQ 797 and recreational marijuana at this time. However, good data is not available on the long-term effects of marijuana due to current federal restraints. As an organization, we will continue to advocate for marijuana to be reclassified at the federal level to enable greater access for research on its potential benefits and risks.

Should 796 or 797 collect enough signatures to appear on the November ballot, we will discuss the issue at that time.”

Green the Vote will update the number of collected signatures on Sunday.