TULSA, Okla. – The Oklahomans for Health on June 17 launched a ballot initiative to vote on legalization of medical marijuana in the upcoming midterm elections. Anticipating the ballot initiative, they started a massive voter registration drive two month earlier. This is one of the large grass roots efforts in Oklahoma during the midterm elections.
In the red state of Oklahoma, even medical marijuana legalization has been met with stiff opposition from the police in several towns and cities. Oklahomans for Health is a non-profit organization, essentially a grassroots coalition that involves people from across the state on a non-partisan basis. In the month of July Oklahomans for Health set an all-time record in Tulsa County for the number of people registering to vote.
According to KRMG, a TV station, they registered 5,327 people, most of them registering as independents. Those who had never been registered numbered 2, 444. According to Peter von Gotcher, a union member who volunteers in the campaign, a total of 86,000 signatures have been collected. In order to get the issue on the ballot 156,000 signatures are needed. Gotcher also noted that people were eager to register because they “hated “Republican Gov. Mary Fallin who is running for reelection this year.
Fallin’s signature made Oklahoma one of the 31 states that has passed voter suppression laws that require voters to present state-issued photo I.Ds in order to vote. The voter suppression bill that passed in Oklahoma was generated by the right-wing think tank, the American Legislative Exchange Council, of which Fallin is a member.
Despite the popular support for legalization of medical marijuana, there has been opposition to the ballot initiative from local law enforcement. The police have been hanging around petition site nears gas stations and strip malls. They have even gone as far as arresting for trespassing an individual who stepped onto grass at a gas station in order to sign a petition.
A source at the Oklahoma Coalition Against Prohibition, one of the participants in the coalition, said petitioners had to move out of the town of Shawnee and into neighboring Chandler in order to collect signatures because of harassment of petitioners by Shawnee police. The source said that help was being sought from the Oklahoma branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Medical marijuana remains a controversial issue even with 23 states having already legalized marijuana for medical use. Republicans and right wingers are unhappy about the campaign, particularly the voter registration efforts, because they see supporters of the initiative as unlikely to be Republican or tea party voters in November.