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Legalization of recreational marijuana use moves closer to statewide ballot

Marijuana plants in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren

Oklahoma has already legalized medical marijuana, now proponents of legalization of recreational marijuana have passed a major legal hurdle and are pushing for the Constitutional amendment to be on the Oklahoma ballot in November.


Capitol Insider sponsored by the Oklahoma State Medical Association, committed to fostering health care in rural Oklahoma through education and public and private partnerships. More on OSMA @okmed.org.

Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider - taking you inside politics, policy and government in Oklahoma. I'm Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Shawn, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has confirmed the sufficiency of signatures needed to put a state question on the ballot that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. What's the process involved in moving that constitutional amendment forward?

Shawn Ashley: After the Supreme Court determined that there were a sufficient number of signatures, they directed the Secretary of State's office to publish a notice to that effect. And that opens a ten-business day window for challenges to the sufficiency of the signatures and to the ballot title. That challenge period is open until around September 14th, by my calculation.

Dick Pryor: When will we see the recreational marijuana state question on an Oklahoma ballot?

Shawn Ashley: Well, we really don't know just yet.

Dick Pryor: Why not?

Shawn Ashley: Well, according to the state Election Board, it needed to be notified no later than August 29th that the measure had qualified for the ballot. That deadline is the result of state and federal laws that require ballots for military and overseas voters to be mailed 45 days before the general election. In other words, no later than September 23rd. Now, that's just a little more than a week after the deadline for filing potential challenges, and that's why the proponents of the state question have gone to court.

Dick Pryor: What do they want?

Shawn Ashley: Proponents of the state question have asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus that would require the state Election Board to put the measure on November's general election ballot. They contend Article 5, Section 3 of the Oklahoma Constitution says, “all elections on measures referred to the people of the state shall be had on the next election held throughout the state, except when the legislature or governor orders a special election for that purpose.”

Now, the attorney general's office points out that that constitutional provision also has language that says “the legislature shall make suitable provisions for carrying into effect the provisions of this article.” And the state solicitor general says the legislature has done that by passing a series of statutes governing the initiative petition and referendum process that have not yet been fulfilled. So, in the end, the Oklahoma Supreme Court likely will determine whether the recreational marijuana question is on November's general election ballot or some other ballot in the future.

Dick Pryor: All right. Secretary of Education Ryan Walters, who is running for state superintendent against Democrat Jena Nelson, has weighed into a matter involving application of House Bill 1775 in Norman Public Schools. A Norman high school teacher resigned after a parent complained the teacher made a personal political statement about 1775 and provided a QR code that would allow students to access banned books. Now, Walters has called on the state board to revoke the teacher's license. What do the law and department regulations allow regarding revocation of a teaching certificate in this kind of situation?

Shawn Ashley: According to the State Department of Education's Administrative Rules, “a certificate shall be revoked only for a willful violation of a rule or regulation of the State Board of Education or the U.S. Department of Education, or a willful violation of any federal or state law or conviction for certain criminal offenses.” And finally, “for other proper cause, including but not limited to violation of the standards of performance and conduct for teachers.” And the board doesn't just vote to revoke a teaching certificate. A complaint has to be filed with the State Department of Education. There has to be an investigation of the complaint and a hearing either before the board itself or a hearing officer where both sides have an opportunity to speak. And ultimately then, it is the board that decides whether a teaching certificate is revoked, not just the superintendent of public instruction.

Dick Pryor: The legislature is in an interim period when little typically happens at the Capitol, but that's not so this year.

Shawn Ashley: That's true. There are 22 committee hearings scheduled during the month of September to hear interim studies. The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding, which is making recommendations for the expenditure of the American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA funding, is also expected to meet, as are some of its working groups. And perhaps at the end of the month, we may see lawmakers return to the Capitol to turn those recommendations into legislation which they will then consider.

Dick Pryor: Thank you, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

Dick Pryor has more than 25 years of experience in public service media, having previously served as deputy director, managing editor, news manager, news anchor and host for OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide public TV network. He was named general manager of KGOU Radio in November, 2016.
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