December 12, 2015
The MILegalize Board of Directors is announcing a short-term extension of its 2015 petitioning campaign. All petitioners are encouraged to turn in all petitions by Dec. 21st, and to continue petitioning beyond Dec. 21st until further notice from the campaign. MILegalize is still paying petitioners for signatures collected beyond December 21st under current payment arrangements. The campaign directs petitioners to immediately contact the campaign to send in carefully completed, signed and dated petitions to the Lansing headquarters, and urges supporters not to resign the petition a second time.
"For a variety of strategic reasons, MILegalize is extending it's campaign," said MILegalize Chair Jeffrey Hank, a Lansing attorney. To avoid any potential challenges to the petition, MILegalize needs time to validate all the incoming petitions from volunteers between Dec. 21st and the New Year. "We don't want any supporter to be disenfranchised because their petition was not received by us prior to submission to the State. MILegalize has until June 1, 2016 to submit our petition for the November ballot. We are aware of the problems recently experienced by the prevailing wage petition, and are carefully validating every one of our signatures," said Hank.
Among other reasons cited for the campaign's extension: a possible policy change by the Bureau of Elections; a new law signed by Governor Snyder recently that could place MILegalize or a Legislative alternative on the March 2016 rather than November 2016 ballot; and evaluation of both Legislative action and other possible ballot initiatives; and funding opportunities from national groups.
Although opinions vary as to the potential impact on statewide campaigns, there is concern the grass-roots petition drive to place legalization of marijuana on the ballot in November 2016 could end up on the March 2016 ballot, or that the Legislature could respond to an MILegalize campaign filing by enacting inferior legislation.
"There is too much at stake for us to rely on a logical interpretation of this law by government," said MILegalize Director Jamie Lowell. "We promised this to the people for a November election, and if that means delaying our submission, that is what we will do. We have the financial resources to finish this drive and will submit to the State when we are satisfied we've not only validated properly, but eliminated the various threats of political shenanigans."
MILegalize will continue to collect signatures through the early part of next year via volunteer and paid signature gatherers. MI Legalize currently has the financial support and grassroots infrastructure to support a successful ballot campaign. January marks the beginning of the traditional petitioning season in Michigan. This will bring an influx of professional circulators to Michigan, according to MILegalize Campaign Manager Chris Silva.
"It was always our intention to collect more signatures than were necessary," said Silva. "Circumstances outside of our control may have forced an alteration in our strategy, but it has become a benefit to our campaign. While we could spend more money in the short term to collect more signatures, it's more cost effective if we don't have to." Some of the signatures collected earlier in the campaign will be older than 180 days at the time of submission, which does not mean that they are invalid, it just means the campaign has to take extra steps to include them.
Attempting to preserve every signature and dollar for the campaign, Hank has requested the state Board of Canvassers update a 1986 policy that could more easily validate thousands of already-collected, valid signatures for the campaign. "We are not the only petition campaign that would benefit from this change. This proposal would eliminate fraud and further guarantee the purity of elections for the state," Hank said, "and we expect they will take a reasonable approach to the issues raised. Since adoption of the prior policy, Michigan election law and the advent of computer technology have dramatically changed the petitioning landscape."
The Board of Canvassers meets on December 14th to discuss the policy update. While conventional wisdom was that only 180 days exist to petition, MILegalize has been strategically preparing for alternative options that create huge advantage for the campaign.
MILegalize will issue another statement shortly after the Dec 21st turn-in with an update on campaign strategy for 2015 and into 2016. "Until then we urge all supporters to keep collecting as many signatures as possible," Hank concluded.
Paid for with regulated funds by the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee, PO Box 4427, East Lansing, MI 48826.