Does AG’s blunt language harm pot state question?

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A petition to legalize medical marijuana sits under black lights at The Gypsy Coffee House in Tulsa's Brady District. DYLAN GOFORTH / The Frontier
A petition to legalize medical marijuana sits under black lights at The Gypsy Coffee House in Tulsa’s Brady District. DYLAN GOFORTH / The Frontier

After state officials announced this week that a petition to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma had gained enough signatures, attention turned to Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

How much would Pruitt change the language of State Question 788? The petition spearheaded by a group with the reassuring name Oklahomans for Health — seeks a vote on legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.

Would Pruitt set the proposed law up for failure by adding, removing or changing language to scare voters who are on the fence about legalized, medicinal pot?

Pruitt’s rewrite of the SQ 788 ballot language came out today. You can be the judge of whether his changes aim to harm the measure.

I’ve assembled the original language and Pruitt’s new language in one document and annotated the AG’s version to highlight what his office changed in the original proposal.

After all, this is the AG who asked the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago to throw out Colorado’s law legalizing personal use of marijuana.

“The diversion of marijuana from Colorado … is particularly burdensome for neighboring
states … where law enforcement agencies and the citizens have endured the substantial expansion of Colorado marijuana,” the legal challenge stated.

Pruitt was unsuccessful in that attempt. The court declined in March to allow Oklahoma and Nebraska to challenge Colorado’s law.

At least state officials can rest easy knowing they won’t have to inspect gummy bears at the border much longer. Earlier this summer, Colorado banned gummy bears and other pot edibles in certain shapes.

The winding road for SQ 788 is far from over. The state’s initiative petition process sets up large hurdles for citizens who want to place a state question on the ballot.

If the proposed measure survives an initial protest period, supporters have just 90 days to gather tens of thousands of voters’ signatures. For initiative petitions, the signatures must equal 8 percent of the votes cast in the last general election for governor.

In some cases, that can be a tall order. Medical marijuana supporters didn’t meet that requirement the last time they gathered signatures.

This year, Oklahomans for Health had to gather at least 65,987 valid signatures. That equates to 8 percent of the 824,831 ballots cast in the 2014 election.

The Secretary of State’s Office announced Tuesday the group squeaked by with 67,761 signatures.

However other hurdles still remain for the measure, including another challenge period and a review by the Supreme Court: “Any person who is dissatisfied with the wording of the ballot title may appeal to the Supreme Court by petition in which shall be offered a substitute ballot title for the one from which the appeal is taken. Supreme Court shall resolve the objection(s) with dispatch.”

The court has already rewritten one of Pruitt’s rewrites of a proposed state question. Earlier this month, a majority of the justices ruled that Pruitt’s rewrite of a criminal justice reform measure was “misleading and partial.”

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