- Associated Press - Thursday, August 21, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An effort to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma has fallen short of the number of signatures needed to put the issue on a ballot, but the initiative petition’s organizer vowed Thursday to circulate a new ballot measure next year.

Officials at the Secretary of State’s Office said Tulsa-based Oklahomans for Health needed 155,216 voter signatures to get the medical marijuana issue on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. But workers who wrapped up the validation process on Thursday counted only 75,384 valid signatures.

Chip Paul, an organizer who filed the initiative petition in April, said he was not surprised the group fell short of the number of signatures required to authorize a statewide vote on legalizing the use of medical marijuana.

Volunteers delivered dozens of boxes of signed petitions to the Secretary of State on Friday, a day ahead of their deadline for submitting the signatures. Paul said at the time that thousands of signatures collected by volunteers were not turned in because they did not meet the format requirements of state law and likely would have been invalidated during the signature counting process.

Still, Paul said he was encouraged that volunteers managed to gather about half the signatures they needed to authorize an election on medical marijuana, which is already legal in more than 20 states.

“We’re encouraged that we were able to garner that many signatures,” Paul said. He said the organization is already looking for funding to launch a new initiative petition drive in August 2015.

“It all kind of comes down to funding,” he said.

The petition sought voter approval of classifying marijuana as an herbal drug that would be regulated by the Oklahoma Department of Health. Doctors would have been authorized to prescribe it for a variety of medical conditions.

Medical marijuana would have been subject to a 7 percent sales tax with proceeds funding the agency’s regulatory office.

The initiative petition drive wrapped up just days after medical marijuana opponent Gov. Mary Fallin asked lawmakers to support the legalization of cannabidiol, an oil derived from the marijuana plant. Research suggests that the oil, which can only be taken orally and is non-psychoactive, may be effective to treat toddlers with rare conditions that cause seizures and strokes.

Fallin, a Republican who is seeking re-election in November, defeated two opponents in the June 24 GOP primary who had made their support for the legalization of marijuana an issue in the campaign.

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