Michigan Petition For Ballot To Legalize Marijuana And Second To Ban Fracking Fail Due To New Legislation

A group in Michigan fell short by 106,000 signatures in a petition to vote on the legalization of marijuana in the state. Another petition drive to ban fracking also reportedly failed despite receiving sufficient signatures.

While the group was hoping people in the state could vote in November to legalize marijuana and medical marijuana dispensaries, a new law has put a spanner in the works.

According to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, both ballot proposals would have to adhere to a strict 180-day window under a new bill that was signed into law by him on Tuesday.

In the case of the marijuana ballot, the petition in actual fact gathered more than enough signatures, but not within the new 180-day window enforced in the state. The petition to ban fracking also had sufficient signatures, but again not within the same 180-day window.

According to a report by the Detroit News, pro-marijuana activist group Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee (MiLegalize) submitted an estimated 354,000 signatures last week, which was more than the 252,523 required to make the ballot. However, the Bureau of Elections said only 146,413 were collected within the newly set 180 days of the filing. Under the new state law signed Tuesday, the older signatures will be thus treated as “stale and void.”

The group is not giving up, however, as executive director Jeff Hank said MiLegalize plans to sue the state of Michigan for ballot access, saying the 180-day signature window is unconstitutional.

“The only way we’re probably going to rectify this is through litigation, and the fact that the Bureau has made this decision in a timely fashion gives us enough time to litigate,” Hank said.

“We’re going to fight for the rights of every Michigan voter and make sure we get this on the ballot.”

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A report by the Detroit Free Press quotes Snyder as saying in a statement that he signed the legislation because the time limit to gather signatures was appropriate.

“Establishing reasonable time limits on when signatures can be collected helps ensure the issues that make the ballot are the ones that matter most to Michiganders.”

Opponents of the new legislation, which reportedly passed on mostly party-line votes in both the House and the Senate with only Republican members supporting the bill, are not happy. They say the new law impedes the people of Michigan from having a voice in their own government, and they are challenging the legislation.

Reportedly, the State Board of Canvassers is meeting Thursday to discuss the Secretary of State’s findings on the ballot proposal.

However, under the new law, should people wish to collect signatures for any new constitutional amendments or legislative initiative of any kind, there will be a 180-day window for collecting those signatures.

At present, if some signatures fall outside the 180-day window, that objection can be challenged. However, under the new law, the ability to challenge the exclusion of petition signatures has been removed, setting the 180-day window as fixed.

[Photo via Flickr by Bob Doran, cropped and resized/CC BY 2.0]