OPINION

Oklahomans push for SQ on ‘Medicinal Marijuana’

Joe Dorman

Oklahomans for Health (www.ok4health.com) want to add Oklahoma to the growing number of states with a medical marijuana program.

Having run the statewide petition effort to make the ballot in 2014, the group is ready to try again this year. Members of the group delivered the necessary paperwork to the Oklahoma Secretary of State and Oklahoma Attorney General on Monday, April 11 — beginning the process to have State Question 787 placed on November’s General Election ballot.

“We have watched on the sidelines in hopes that the Oklahoma State legislature would take some action,” said Frank Grove, board member and co-chair of the 2016 campaign effort. “Apparently, they will not, so we will put forth another petition effort. Many Oklahomans are demanding this valuable medicine and we intend to see that they have a program which provides access for this type of treatment.”

In 2014, the group ran a statewide petition effort to get medical marijuana on the ballot. The group attempted to amend the Oklahoma Constitution. The group needed 155,000 signatures, which totaled 15 percent of the 2012 statewide election totals, but they fell short of this mark.

The group has a different strategy for 2016.

“We have completely re-thought how to go about this, and will now seek a statutory change”, said Joe Dorman, a newly elected board member and former state representative. Dorman, who challenged Mary Fallin for the Governor’s seat in 2014, decided to join the group after watching little support shown at the Oklahoma State Capitol. “I want to encourage people to keep an open mind about this proposal. I certainly trust doctors and health care providers to offer the proper medication for treatment over bureaucrats and politicians.”

“Joe took on addiction issues, end of life care and health care reform as missions in his days of legislative service, so we are very pleased that he has seen the value of marijuana as a medicine and how it can assist with these critical health issues,” commented Chip Paul, the group’s third co-chair.

By seeking statutory reform through the initiative petition, the group will need to collect roughly 70,000 signatures to be placed on the 2016 statewide ballot in November. The group feels confident about its ability to garner the signatures as more than 80,000 signatures were collected in 2014 for a constitutional change.

“I know it is hard to consider 2014 a success since we did not get the required amount of signatures, but what we accomplished in that year gives us great hope for this petition drive,” said Paul, who served as chairman for the 2014 campaign. “We completely changed the conversation in Oklahoma, and when compared with similar efforts across the country, we were wildly successful. It just shows what a great grass roots and populist sentiment we have here in Oklahoma.”

The group was able to gather 80,000 signatures for a campaign costing about $45,000 in the previous petition drive. Oregon, which petitioned at the same time, and has similar geographic and population demographics, gathered the same amount of signatures, but with a budget of $3,000,000.

By delivering the petition now, the group hopes to begin collecting signatures by early May.

“There is a process of review which the Attorney General and Secretary of State must follow,” said Dorman, who worked in 2013 to collect signatures for a petition drive to fund storm shelters and increase security protocols in public schools. “This is a very formal process, and we will respect the timeframe it takes them to properly guarantee a valid petition.”

The group will have headquarters located in Oklahoma City and Tulsa where volunteers can pick up signature sheets. Once the petition has been certified as valid and the ballot title approved, the group will have ninety days to collect the required signatures. Donations will be accepted to defer printing costs for the petitions, but Oklahomans for Health intends to run this effort in a volunteer capacity similar to 2014.