Participants gather for the annual Hash Bash protest at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., on April 2, 2016. The school does not condone marijuana consumption at the event. (Junfu Han, The Ann Arbor News via AP)

Why Michigan may not approve signatures to legalize weed

A group hoping to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan turned in more than enough signatures before the deadline, but will the state allow them as validated?

LANSING, Mich. — A group trying to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan said it turned in enough valid signatures just before the Wednesday deadline to place the issue before voters on the November ballot.

Update: Why Michigan won’t accept 106,000 signatures for marijuana legalization

But whether the state considers the roughly 354,000 signatures as valid is another question because a bill presented to Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday would stop such groups from counting signatures older than 180 days.

Current law allows the group, MI Legalize, to count older signatures toward the roughly 253,000 they need to put the measure before voters. However, neither Snyder’s office nor the Secretary of State’s office would say whether the bill before Snyder would apply to the legalize marijuana group.

Michigan already has a law allowing marijuana for medical use but this measure would legalize recreational marijuana.

“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.

He said the state still has to review petition sheets and pull a sample of signatures to verify validity, and adds that people can also challenge signatures before the office makes a report to the state Board of Canvassers which votes on whether the group has enough valid signatures.

Jeffrey Hank, the group’s director, said they turned in about 200,000 signatures older than 180 days. But he stresses that current law allows them to count those signatures toward the filing requirement, and said even if Snyder signs the bill it wouldn’t apply to them. The group wouldn’t have enough signatures to make the ballot if the older ones aren’t counted.

“It’s been a long journey,” Hank said. We started this thing with a dollar and a dream … you don’t do this for fun. It was a lot of work.”

Snyder’s office said the governor is still deciding whether to sign the bill that stops such groups from counting signatures older than 180 days.

Hank said they may pursue litigation if the Secretary of State doesn’t accept their signatures, which he says are valid.

Another group — one trying to ban hydraulic fracturing in the state — didn’t have enough signatures to meet the requirement Wednesday, but held a press conference to say they gathered about 207,000 signatures, short of the 253,000 requirement even if the state would have allowed them to count the roughly 151,000 signatures the group collected that are older than 180 days.

The anti-fracking group says they will gather more signatures through the summer and attempt to use all they have collected so far.

The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan and LuAnne Kozma, the group’s director, filed a lawsuit Wednesday in the state court of claims in which they allege that the 180-day time limit on signatures is unconstitutional.

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