A petition drive to place the "decriminalization" of marijuana on November's general election ballot is running behind schedule. The Michigan Marijuana Initiative (MMI), the state's prime organizer in the petition drive, needs 265,000 valid signatures by July 8 to have the question placed on the ballot. So far about 100,000 signatures have been collected in the drive, which began in March. A similar petition drive was held two years ago. Concentrated primarily in Ann Arbor, it resulted in about 125,000 signatures. However, many of those signatures were later invalidated for a variety of reasons. Only about 40,000 checked out as legitimate signatures of registered voters. Both Dan Page, state coordinator for the petition drive and a volunteer member of the staff of State Rep. Perry Bullard, D-Ann Arbor, and Stan Gendrezak, a Detroit organizer for the MMI, said the group is taking steps to reduce the number of potentially invalid signatures on this year's ballots. "WE OKAYED everything about the form of the petition itself with the attorney general's office before we sent any out. There are laws on the size of the petition itself and on the size of the print and type of wording. "Last time they sent out petitions without checking, and some of them turned out to be improper - all the signatures were invalid." "We've been having lessons on how to go about getting signatures correctly," Detroit organizer Gendrezak said. "And we're telling people who aren't registered voters not to sign at all - they're not going to help, and they'll probably hurt us." (Gendrezak said the while three or four guys are spending a lot of time on it," no one in Detroit is working full time on.the effort. However, Page said: "It could really be possible, even with all the hassles, that we'll make it this time." "Decriminalizing" marijuana would remove all penalties for personal use, and for possession of small quantities intended for personal use. HOWEVER decriminalization would preserve penalties for sale and for possession of large quantities of the drug intended for sale. Maximum penalties on first conviction for simple possession of less than two ounces of marijuana in Michigan now include a jail term up to 90 days ; and-or a fine up to $1,000. Decriminalizing marijuana has been supported by various groups, ranging from the liberal American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to the National Review, William F. Buckley's conservative journal.
Rights Held By
Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.