Things are getting exciting for the folks in Michigan who are hoping to see recreational marijuana legalized by the end of the year. After months of gathering petition signatures, the group MILegalize has officially turned in over 350,000 signatures, which should be more than enough for them to reach the 253,000 signatures needed for them to find their initiative placed on the ballot this November.
Unfortunately, even though they have collected almost 100,000 more signatures than they actually need, there is a chance that the Secretary of State will deem around 200,000 signatures invalid due to being collected outside of a 180 day window. Under current state law, they are able to use the signatures, but a bill that recently passed and is awaiting signature would not count anything collected prior to December 20th of last year.
“Michigan law allows you to petition beyond 180 days,” says Jeffery Hank, executive director of MI Legalize. “The current law just deals with how do you verify those signatures that are beyond 180 days. We believe we have done everything we could to try to do that.”
MILegalize has already encouraged Governor Snyder to veto the bill – whether or not he will is still very much up in the air. It was speculated that the impeccable timing of introducing this bill and the rush of legislators to push it through is their way of trying to put an end to the efforts to legalize marijuana in the state – and MILegalize has already made it clear that they will take action if the older signatures are not validated.
“We would review the effect of the public act if petitions are turned in and the bill is signed,” said Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams.
Basically, what they are saying is this: if the bill is signed then they will go over the signatures again to determine validation. If they attempt to say that the petition signatures are not valid due to the new bill, the MILegalize group plans to take them to court with the claim that the new law would not apply to them as it was implemented after they started gathering signatures. Whether or not this argument will hold up with a judge, we can’t know until we get there.
Hopefully this never has to go that far and the lawmakers will consider the signatures valid, regardless of how long ago the petition was signed. If it is taken to court, this wouldn’t be the first time a campaign has had to turn to the legal system to get their signatures validated – Maine had to do so back at the end of April when the Secretary of State invalidated thousands of signatures due to one notary signature.
It won’t be long now before we know whether or not Michigan will be officially on the list of states voting to legalize recreational marijuana this November.