by Therin Miller | September 21, 2022
An Oklahoma cannabis legalization initiative was certified for ballot access last month and is still awaiting official placement for the November election while facing additional legal scrutiny and is being contested separately by a former Republican state lawmaker and a controversial marijuana activist.
Mike Reynolds, a former member of the Oklahoma House who served until 2014, complained to the state Supreme Court last week, claiming that a recently passed state election integrity law rendered the review of signatures "practically impossible" because they were rendered inaccessible without requiring legal action.
He obtained the State Question 820 signature data last week. He has requested that the court grant him a 10-day review period for the signatures and an opportunity for the secretary of state's office to be heard and provide a defense for any challenge "arguing disapproval of all the signatures."
Reynolds misinterpreted the bill, Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall (R), who sponsored the election legislation, said KOFR. The former lawmaker's challenge, according to Michelle Tilley, campaign director for Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws (OSML), is "a shot in the dark protest" that probably amounts to "another delay strategy."
Prior to the approval of signatures last month, the secretary of state's office stated that OSML submitted more than enough signatures to qualify their issue in July. They also agreed to the state attorney general's adjustments to the ballot title language.
A petition on the legalization measure has also been filed with the state Supreme Court by an activist well-known for challenging ballot rules in connection with cannabis measures. Paul Tay opposed different legalization legislation earlier this year. In a complaint against SQ 820, he is now reiterating the same points.
In particular, he argues that signatures obtained on Indian property under sovereign control are invalid. He presented a similar case against a legalization initiative abandoned and driven by a different campaign.
In a recent filing made earlier this month, a campaign lawyer claimed that Tay's position has been demonstrably refuted by court precedent and that the matter should be dismissed immediately.
Voting deadlines are approaching, and time is important in this case, they stated. The supporters respectfully ask the court to address the instant challenge expeditiously to ensure that SQ820 can be put to the people's vote at the future general election in November 2022.
OSML has spent a lot of time in front of the state Supreme Court this election cycle. The court recently announced that it will be delaying its ruling on whether the state-certified legalization initiative will appear on the November ballot, giving activists a brief victory.
The secretary of state's office certified the item. Still, officials have said that the campaign ran the risk of missing deadlines for ballot printing. Following that, activists filed a lawsuit, claiming that the state's stated timelines were "arbitrary" and requesting that the Supreme Court order the state to put the initiative on the ballot in November.
The fact that the secretary of state outsourced the ballot verification process to a third party for the first time this year is a key issue in the case. Activists claim the company dragged its feet on the certification of signatures, potentially jeopardizing their ability to meet the printing deadline.
Paul Ziriax, the secretary of the Oklahoma Election Board, stated in a letter from June that the governor would have had to make an executive proclamation by the end of the previous month to formally certify any ballot proposal. However, supporters have disputed that interpretation.
The matter would be "held in abeyance because the filing period for objections to the signatures or ballot title has not yet expired." This will mean that the justices were not prepared to decide on the main issue and would wait until the regular ballot placement process works itself out before making a decision. The court ruled that it would be assuming jurisdiction of the case.
At this point, the court might have easily declared that the campaign failed to submit its petition in time, preventing it from appearing on the November ballot. But instead of doing that, it will temporarily permit the proposal to go through the standard challenge procedure, despite claims made by state officials that important deadlines have already passed.
The two complaints were filed after a 10-day challenge period began as a result. But suppose the court rules in favor of the campaign. In that case, the judges can order the state to publish the issue on the ballot despite the purportedly now-expired deadlines.
On the other hand, after the 10-day challenge ends on Thursday, it might decide to support the state. The proposal would not be put on the ballot in November but rather be tabled until the subsequent state election.
OSML is one of two citizen initiatives to get legalization on the ballot that began this year and is supported by the National New Approach PAC.