Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (Sue Ogrocki, The Associated Press)

Oklahoma AG’s rewrite of MMJ ballot misleads voters, suit alleges

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Republican Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s rewrite of a proposed ballot question on medical marijuana is intentionally misleading and could confuse people into thinking they were voting to fully legalize marijuana in the state, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed with the state Supreme Court on behalf of Oklahomans for Health, a group that gathered enough signatures to have the question placed before voters.

“Thousands and thousands of signatures were collected from voters of Oklahoma,” attorney David Slane said after he filed the lawsuit. “No elected official has the right to rewrite these ballots in such a way that he would try to unfairly influence voters. Scott Pruitt has a habit, a pattern of doing this.”

Slane said he believes the rewrite was crafted in such a way as to encourage Oklahoma voters to reject it.

Pruitt was not available to comment on his rewrite of the ballot title, and a spokesman said his office was still reviewing the lawsuit.

“The Attorney General’s Office received the lawsuit late Tuesday afternoon and will begin the process of reviewing the challenge,” Pruitt spokesman Lincoln Ferguson said in a statement.

The original wording of the ballot title developed by its supporters makes clear that a yes vote legalizes the licensed use, sale and growth of marijuana for medicinal purposes and must be approved by a physician. Pruitt’s version begins with the line: “This measure legalizes the licensed use, sale and growth of marijuana in Oklahoma. There are no qualifying medical conditions identified.”

Last month, the Supreme Court rewrote the ballot titles of two criminal justice initiatives and said in a ruling that Pruitt’s rewrites of the two questions were “misleading and partial.”

In 2014, Pruitt joined with Nebraska’s attorney general to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to declare Colorado’s legalization of marijuana unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court later rejected that challenge.

Supporters wanted to get the medical marijuana measure on the ballot in November, but they did not submit the signatures in time to finish the approval process. It likely won’t be on the ballot until 2018.