A Knoxville man who tried to get two marijuana measures on the November ballot for Knox County voters says he hopes he's at least raised awareness about the merits of the issue.
"I may not have succeeded at getting on the ballot, but I believe I have brought attention to an issue that is important not only to me but at least 17,000 residents and voters of Knox County. And hopefully the idea of Tennessee having medical marijuana is not so farfetched anymore," Steve Cooper wrote in an open letter Wednesday afternoon to Knox County.
Wednesday afternoon was Cooper's deadline to turn in signatures in support of the petitions - one to legalize medical marijuana use and another to legalize recreational use for adults.
Cooper said in a letter to members of the media he sent out Wednesday afternoon that he fell about 3,000 signatures short of his goal of 20,000 for each.
"He got close," Cliff Rodgers, Knox County elections administrator, told 10News. "He just didn't get where he needed to be to have us count them to see if he can get on the ballot."
Cooper, an accountant, said he'd collected 17,128 signatures in support of the medical marijuana petition and 16,875 on the recreational marijuana petition.
"While the total number of signatures is greater than the amount needed for the ballot, I have not reached the goal of 20,000 and I do not believe I have sufficiently covered the margin of error to warrant the (election commission) counting the petitions," his letter states.
Cooper needed to get 16,100 signatures from Knox County residents, Rodgers said.
The exercise was symbolic: Pot use is illegal in Tennessee.
The election commission this spring had approved the language of Cooper's petitions. It was up to him then to get enough signatures.
Rodgers said Cooper this week began doing his own checks on what he had. After culling the signatures of people who would not qualify - because they live outside Knox County, for example - he discovered he didn't have enough to proceed, the elections administrator said.
He has no recourse this year. He can try again in another election year, Rodgers said.
Cooper, however, said he had no plans to refile.
"He's been a professional and real gentleman to deal with in this whole process," Rodgers said.