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OKC medical marijuana petitioner arrested amid weeks of harassment, intimidation as signature deadline looms

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EDITOR'S NOTE (8:45 a.m. Aug. 3): In order to sign the petition, please visit this map for your nearest signing location. The deadline for signatures is 5 p.m. Aug. 11.

NORMAN, Okla. – Oklahoma City medical marijuana activist Anthony Kimble was arrested outside the Oklahoma City VA shortly after lunch Tuesday during a sign-holding and signature-gathering event by activists petitioning to get a medical marijuana state question on the ballot in November. Witnesses described an Oklahoma City officer pulling up to the VA and immediately arresting Kimble while he stood on the sidewalk, a not particularly criminal activity. 

Medical marijuana petitioner and Oklahomans for Health co-founder/co-chairman Frank Grove believes this to be nothing more than an escalation of the harassment and intimidation many medical marijuana petitioners have encountered during the past several months gathering signatures. 

Frank, co-founder/co-chairman of Oklahomans for Health, an organization dedicated to putting a medical marijuana state question on the ballot, is the first to say how supportive many police officers have been of their First Amendment right to gather signatures, but notes that a continuous stream of harassment by a few officers is hindering their operations significantly. Frank spoke to Red Dirt Report about three instances of harassment in particular that stand out. 

The first incident Frank mentioned was what happened at a permanent signature-gathering site that volunteers established in late June. This was a 24/7 site, set up NW Expressway and Meridian public easement, with petitioners gathering signatures from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. every single day. 

Tents were set up, along with solar panels for electronics, and the volunteers depended on the surrounding community for material support, which was provided. During the first 20 days of operations at the site, relations with the Oklahoma City police were agreeable, and the officers sided with the petitioners and the First Amendment if an issue ever arose. 

This all changed after 20 days, when a deputy called William Jones, one of the organizers working at the site, and informed him that the petitioners would face massive fines if they didn’t leave. The deputy also made it clear that other signature-gathering sites would experience an increase in harassment if the petitioners didn’t pack up and leave. 

That same day, employees of the state placed signs at the site that indicated a curfew was now in place, and an officer was sent to take pictures of signers, volunteers, as well as their license plates and the inside of cars owned by the petitioners. This clearly had the intimidation effect that the police were looking for, with petition-signers being almost too fearful to get out of their vehicle and approach the petitioners. 

The same officer returned the next day to inform the petitioners that he was just doing his job, which implied that he was carrying out orders from higher-up to intimidate petitioners for engaging in a peaceful, First Amendment-protected activity. 

The second incident occurred at the OKC courthouse. A volunteer, sitting on a bench with a sign and clipboard, was approached by an Oklahoma County sheriff who was quoted as saying that he “was tired of stoners thinking you can do whatever you want,” and immediately threatened the volunteer with arrest for trespassing. 

The sheriff then brought three more officers to surround the volunteer when the volunteer didn’t back down. Chad Moody, known as “The Drug Lawyer,” a vocal proponent of marijuana legalization and an Oklahoma City-based attorney, witnessed the entire incident. 

Moody called for a meeting with the District Attorney and determined that the sheriff’s actions were unconstitutional. Despite that outcome, Frank notes that they lost almost an entire day of signature-gathering, precious time considering the short, 90-day window they have to gather signatures.

The third incident occurred on a public easement in Moore, where city code enforcers harassed petitioners during the last week of July. The enforcers demanded that the volunteers first get a permit before setting up operations. 

The volunteers did obtain a permit to satisfy the enforcers, but Moore city councilman Adam Webb discovered what had happened and was angered that the volunteers were shut down illegally. Webb signed the petition and made the enforcers apologize to the volunteers in person for violating their First Amendment rights.

Frank, a Tulsa native who holds a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Tulsa, is undaunted by the intimidation. He believes that the OKC metro supports medical marijuana legalization by a wide margin, as well as most police officers. 

He also understands that the short, 90-day window to gather signatures means that he doesn’t have time to fret about police intimidation. The goal is to reach the necessary number of signatures by Aug. 11.  Sheriffs and city officials might be an annoyance to someone like Frank, but they’ll never become an insurmountable obstacle for someone as passionate as he is about getting medical marijuana in the hands of Oklahomans whose lives may depend on it. 

Red Dirt Report will have the update on the fate of petitioner Anthony Kimble shortly.

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Shane Smith

Shane Smith is an accountant and freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in economics from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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