It seems like there is always something standing in the way of those who get the farthest with a campaign to legalize marijuana. A group will come out and spend millions of dollars to slander the group or the initiative or the plant itself; or a group of politicians could decide to pass a bill which likely would not have been on the table otherwise.
The latter is an example of what is happening in Michigan right now. The group know in full as Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee – more casually known as MILegalize – has gotten closer to the ballot than any other ballot initiative in the state.
They plan to submit 300,000 signatures and most recently reported being 50,000 signatures away from being ready to send them in. The bill that was rushed through the Senate this past week could prevent thousands of those signatures from being considered valid if they were collected before or after a 180 day signature gathering period.
If the House of Representatives votes in favor of the bill, it will require signatures to be validated within a set 180 day window. When the original bill was introduced and that short timeframe for gathering petitions was passed, there was no way to validate the age of a signature, however with modern technology there is.
With how quickly this bill was introduced and voted on in the Senate, it is likely to be pushed through in a rush through the House as well. In the end, it seems likely that the Governor would sign the bill into law – which could stand in the way of petitions gathered by MILegalize outside of that specified timeframe – which would have ended Dec. 20th of 2015.
“It’s very simple: 180 days means 180 days,” Senator Dave Robertson, the bill’s primary sponsor, told The Detroit News. “We’re not changing it. We’re affirming it.”
Currently, Jeff Hank (Lansing lawyer and chairman of MILegalize), is encouraging all volunteers to continue to gather petitions for the time being. He claims that any new law amended to the petitioning process cannot be applied retroactively to an on-going campaign. If he is correct, then signatures gathered outside that 180 days could be considered valid, likely placing them on the ballot.
“Petitioning is a fundamental right, just like freedom of speech, and so the policy (that regulates it) has to be the least burdensome way of exercising that right,” Hank said Thursday, adding: “If the state doesn’t approve us for the ballot, we’re going to sue — that’s 100% guaranteed.”
Even when threatened, MILegalize is doing their best to gather all the needed petitions and will fight through courts if necessary to see their initiative placed on the ballot this November. As to whether or not it will come down to a battle of the courts, we will just have to sit back and wait to find out.