The leader of a Tulsa activist group seeking to make medical and recreational marijuana a constitutional state question on the statewide ballot announced his resignation Sunday.
Isaac Caviness, president of Green The Vote, said in a Facebook Live broadcast that he decided to step down following revelations that he and fellow board member Dody Sullivan publicly inflated the number of signatures collected for State Question 797, which would have legalized recreational marijuana.
“There’s a lot of people that want to see me continue to lead Green The Vote because they understand the passion and work that I’ve put in. But I have to look at more than just a handful of people want or what a lot of people want,” Caviness explained Sunday afternoon.
He said the move would allow him more time with his family, whom he said hasn’t gotten his full attention as Green The Vote’s efforts intensified in recent years.
“I don’t want this to look like a situation where I’m running or I’m being forced to step down,” he said. “It’s just a matter of trying to do what’s best for the movement right now.”
Caviness said Damon Beck will serve as interim director of Green The Vote pending board meetings to determine future leadership of the group.
“Moving forward, we’ll be placing our energies into creating an effective and organic informational network,” Beck said in the broadcast. “Green The Vote’s main mission is to support the cannabis community to include patients, victims of the drug war and the public in education and unity and move forward in the cannabis legalization process.”
Green The Vote in late July reported it received more than 130,000 signatures for the initiative, surpassing the requirement of nearly 124,000, or 15 percent of recorded voter turnout in the 2014 gubernatorial election.
But Sullivan, during a different broadcast, revealed the discrepancy earlier this month and said her last recorded count was less than half of that. She subsequently said she chose to resign her post.
The two also provided inflated signature data for State Question 796, which would have enshrined the right to medical marijuana in the Oklahoma Constitution. However, they never claimed that measure had enough signatures for ballot placement.
Caviness offered his resignation when the news came to light, but Green The Vote co-founder Josh Lewelling said he declined to accept it at the time.
Lewelling told the Tulsa World previously that the group wanted Caviness to continue being the point of contact while the drives were pending and did not believe he had ill intent when he provided false signature totals.
“I would just ask that everybody stay united,” Chris Moe, another Green The Vote leader, said Sunday afternoon of the situation. “We do have some good ideas. This is the time for us to work together and make some real changes with the numbers that we have.”
Despite the group failing to gather the required number of signatures needed for SQ 796, Caviness said he remains “cautiously optimistic” about SQ 797. The Secretary of State could release its report this week on validated signatures for that effort, which, even if it makes the 15 percent mark, will not appear on a ballot this year due to statutory time limits.
Caviness, in his farewell address, suggested the new leadership should work with lawmakers and continue to serve as a watchdog on the state Health Department.
“Any time that Green The Vote wants my advice or my help for any reason, I will be here,” Caviness said. “There’s no reason for Green The Vote to lose any momentum, at least not any more than I’ve already cost.”