Activists worry proposed law change will keep pot legalization off ballot

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LANSING, Mich. — Pro-marijuana activists hoping to give voters the final say on whether pot should be legalized in Michigan say their hopes of getting it on the November ballot are fading fast.

Lawmakers in Lansing are moving forward on approving changes to how ballot signatures are collected. A bill already approved by the Michigan Senate is designed to close a loophole giving ballot petitioners the ability to certify signatures collected outside of a six month, or 180 day, window mandated by law.

MiLegalize has been working for months with the hopes of placing a proposal on the ballot to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana in Michigan.

"It’s a total misalignment of priorities," said Jeffrey Hank, attorney and chairman of MiLegalize. "It’s terrible—DPS, Flint, and you’re dealing with taking away a citizen’s right to petition."

Groups like MiLegalize need roughly 253,000 valid signatures from registered voters in order to have an issue placed on the ballot. Hank said his group began collecting signatures in late June, meaning it's exceeded the state's six month window mandate.

To date, the group has collected roughly 250,000 signatures.

Currently, the law states a signature is "stale and void" if signed more than 180 days before the petition is filed with the state. But a petitioner can challenge the "stale and void" claim.

>> MORE: Read Michigan SB 776

“They’re taking away an essential part of the checks and balances in the system," Hank said. "People don’t understand the burden, what it actually takes to go out and get hundreds and thousands of your neighbors to sign petitions.”

Hank contends grassroots organizations like his are up against corporate lobbying groups with big financial backing, which have the upper hand to mobilize many more volunteers to collect the necessary signatures during the 180-day limit.

“It’s always big money groups, so citizens have a very tough time and they haven’t done something in years," he said. "We have the support of the majority of the state and we’re very close to qualifying for the ballot and their reaction is to try to change the rules.”

The bill is not expected to face much challenge before being signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. If passed, Hank is adamant the new law should not and could not apply retroactively to an ongoing petition. Under existing law, his group plans to make a challenge to count signatures collected outside the 180-day limit are legitimate.

“This is bigger than cannabis legalization or fixing the roads or funding the schools, this is about every Michigan citizen’s right as an American to have a say," Hank said, promising a legal battle against the state if the bill is approved.

Sen. Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, who chairs the Senate elections and government reform committee, introduced the bill in February. Despite repeated attempts on Tuesday, Robertson's office did not make him available for comment.

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    Just legalize it and get it over with.
    The politicians are scurrying to put themselves in positions to to make millions personally.
    Remember when a Michigan politician with a background in horticulture wanted all pot grown in Michigan to be grown on state approved farms ? guess who owned the farms?
    google the details.

  • Brian Kelly

    Politicians who continue to demonize Marijuana, Corrupt Law Enforcement Officials who prefer to ruin peoples lives over Marijuana possession rather than solve real crimes who fund their departments toys and salaries with monies acquired through Marijuana home raids, seizures and forfeitures, and so-called “Addiction Specialists” who make their income off of the judicial misfortunes of our citizens who choose marijuana, – Your actions go against The Will of The People and Your Days In Office Are Numbered! Find new careers before you don’t have one.

    The People have spoken! Get on-board with Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, or be left behind and find new careers. Your choice.

    Legalize Nationwide!

  • Common Cents

    Politicians are essentially funded by the people that profit from having cannabis remain illegal. That’s the reason they’re pushing to change this law.

  • Kevin Rahe

    Right to Life of Michigan has had no trouble getting enough signatures for a ballot proposal within the allotted time, so it’s not true that grassroots organizations can’t do it. Perhaps it’s just the dubious (or negative) value of the proposed change that is the problem.

    • Brad Forrester

      RTLM isn’t a Ballot Committee, it’s a PAC. Big difference. MILEGALIZE formed when 100 activists from across the state had a summit, elected leadership and embarked on a true grassroots campaign to change state law. RTLM is an ongoing enterprise that’s been operating for many years. They are lobbyists. This comparrison isn’t even apples and oranges, it’s apples and bovines!

      • Kevin Rahe

        RLM has one lobbyist, and pockets that aren’t very deep. It certainly isn’t among the “corporate lobbying groups with big financial backing, which have the upper hand to mobilize many more volunteers to collect the necessary signatures during the 180-day limit.” When it comes to collecting signatures for ballot proposals, RLM is as grassroots as it gets.

  • Greg Rx

    This story is incomplete. No explanation about the 180 rule and how it is being challenged. It is the challenge that is being outlawed. No mention that the law says we have up to 4 years to collect signatures. No mention that we still have till June to meet the deadline, with or without the early signatures. Hope is far from fading. Why no mention how to volunteer to help? Why no mention that we are paying up to $2 per signature? Why no mention where to sign the petition? GO TO MILEGALIZE to donate and/or volunteer. We are soooo close.

  • Timothy Locke

    Abrogate Prohibition Michigan is only 68 days into our 180 day Campaign to put Total and Complete Repeal in the form of a Constitutional Amendment. Seems the Media like Fox 17 is IGNORING the 1st Total Repeal Proposal that is currently Collecting Signatures, with a Deadline of July 11th…
    Why Wait, Abrogate Prohibition Michigan Because More Legislation Creates More Criminals.

    Simple Definition of abrogate
    : to end or cancel (something) in a formal and official way

    Abrogate Prohibition Michigan is the Only way. Full Repeal via Constitutional Amendment.
    Get the Petition and Sign/Circulate it today as A.P.M. is really the SOLUTION, not more legislation.

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