CLAREMORE, Okla. – An Oklahoma sheriff grabbed a marijuana activist by the throat at a public forum Monday, June 18. According to Tulsa World, the incident happened at an informational public forum to discuss the medical marijuana initiative placed on the ballot for the upcoming election.
The state will vote on legalizing medical marijuana June 26. Organizer of Oklahomans for Health Chip Paul successfully obtained the required petition signatures needed to place the initiative on the ballot asking if the state should legalize medical marijuana. The forum was promoted by the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office so that voters could have their questions answered prior to the vote.
Paul claims he was seated in his chair next to his wife when Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton grabbed him by the neck after insisting he leave for speaking out of turn.
"That’s when (Walton) grabbed me by the neck and proceeded to escort me from the building. He rammed my head into a door. I don’t know if that was purposeful or not,” said Paul, adding, "He assaulted me."
Sheriff Unapologetic, Claims He Didn't Mean to Slam Man's Head
The video appears to show a non-aggressive and compliant Paul being led outside by Walton and another officer. The footage shows Walton hitting Paul's head against one of the double doors. Sheriff Walton disputes the footage and was unapologetic, saying Paul was disrupting the proceedings.
“I’m not regretful for my actions there,” said the Oklahoma sheriff. “We were to the point that there was consideration of just pulling the plug on the whole meeting.”
Walton said Paul was disruptive and repeatedly raised his hand to ask questions. Walton said Paul was aware that all questions were being held for the end of the meeting.
The Oklahoma sheriff said he politely asked Paul to go outside but that Paul remained seated, at which point Walton said he grabbed him to escort him outdoors, saying he had "no intention to slam his head into a door in a roomful of people. If my intention was to ram his head through that door, there’d be some physical evidence to show that I did it,” said the sheriff.
Paul said he did raise his hand in an attempt to ask questions but that he was not looking for an altercation.
District Attorney Matt Ballard, Dr. Mark Paul Bishop, Walton, and several DEA officials were in attendance to provide information at the forum.
Ballard said the goal of the forum was to educate voters, adding “The majority of people at the forum were engaged and respectful," Ballard said. "A handful decided to be disrespectful to the entire group, which is unfortunate, but does not detract from the value the forum provided to the community.”
If voters pass the legislation, patients will be able to obtain a certified, state-issued medical marijuana license and possess up to 8 ounces of medical marijuana at home. The bill would also place a 7 percent tax on marijuana with the proceeds going to drug rehabilitation and education programs.
Governor Gov. Mary Fallin (R) is against the ballot initiative and said the bill amounted to legalizing recreational marijuana. However, if the bill is passed by voters, she said she would have legislators come together and draft regulations to implement the will of the voters.
"I am going to let the people decide what they want to do at this point, but I do have clear concerns," she said.
The state has 30 days to come up with regulation guidelines if the initiative passes, which the governor said is likely to happen when the voters hit the polls June 26.