Legalizing pot could be on the November ballot in Knox County

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A Knox County man is in the process to get voters to decide if they think smoking marijuana should be legal.

Steve Cooper could be described as an average man. After work he's outside with his two dogs in his Knoxville suburban home. But Cooper doesn't describe himself as average.

"I am nobody. I'm just a frustrated voter who's had no luck at the ballots, and luckily I live in a county that let's me try something else. So this is my try," Cooper explained.

Cooper is talking about his initiative to let voters decide if they think smoking marijuana should be legal. He's currently in the process of drafting the paperwork that needs to be presented to the Knox County Election Commission that would allow him to put two questions on the ballot in the upcoming November election.

"Very simply, the questions are, shall we allow medical marijuana use in Knox County? Shall we allow recreational use of people 21 years of age or older in Knox County? And that's all it's going to be. Yes or no," he said.

Knox County allows any resident of the county the opportunity to put any question they'd like on the ballot of any election. Cooper said he is doing this for November's because it is expected to be a larger turnout at the polls, so he wanted his question to get in the face of as many voters as possible.

The administrator of the Knox County Election Commission, Clifford Rodgers, said as long as Cooper follows all the necessary steps, there's no reason why voters wouldn't see it on the ballot in Knox County.

"The fact that a measure may be unconstitutional, the fact that it may be promoting something that is now illegal to make it legal, those are not factors that are taken into consideration by the election commission...The question is asked in the proper form or it's not. It doesn't matter about what the question is," Rodgers said.

If the election commission decides that Cooper's question is in proper form, he then is required to gather 20,000 signatures of support from Knox County registered voters. He said he is confident he will be able to get those, and that voters will show up to support his efforts.

"I personally believe both measures can pass. The medical most likely with a good size majority, while the recreational would probably be a borderline kind of passage," Cooper said.

If Knox County residents voted to support legalization of marijuana, it would still have to be taken up by the state legislature before it could become legal.