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State Board of Canvassers Unanimously Rejects “MI Legalize” Initiative Petitions to Legalize Adult Use of Marijuana

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State Board of Canvassers Unanimously Rejects “MI Legalize” Initiative Petitions to Legalize Adult Use of Marijuana

As we have previously reported, on June 1, 2016, “MI Legalize” submitted petitions to the Michigan Board of State Canvassers for a 2016 ballot initiative that would legalize the adult use of marihuana. This year, petitions for an initiated law require 252,523 valid signatures to make the ballot.

Michigan law provides that signatures obtained more than 180 days before petitions are filed are “rebuttably presumed” to be stale and void. Board of Canvassers policy provides a method to rebut that presumption, but MI Legalize, and others, contend that the policy is functionally unworkable. An MI Legalize advocate had proposed that the Board instead adopt a new policy, which would use the State’s Qualified Voter File to determine if petition signers were registered voters both at the time of signature and within the 180-day period prior to the petitions being filed. The Board had failed to act on that proposal.

Earlier this week, Board staff found that the MI Legalize petitions contain at most 146,413 valid signatures gathered within the 180-day period. Although MI Legalize submitted an affidavit attesting that an additional 137,049 older signatures met the standards for being counted, Board staff concluded that the affidavit was deficient under the Board’s current signature rehabilitation policy. Staff therefore recommended that the Board reject the petition for having insufficient valid signatures.

This morning, the Board of State Canvassers held a meeting to act on the petitions. At that meeting, staff explained to the Board that the affidavit submitted by MI Legalize failed to prove that any of the voters who signed outside the 180-day period were registered at the time of signing—a requirement under both the Board’s policy and the alternative policy that had been proposed. The Board then acted unanimously to find the signatures insufficient.

Interestingly, Gov. Snyder just this week signed Senate Bill 776 (now Public Act 142 of 2016), which eliminated the 180-day “rebuttable presumption” and instead provides that all petition signatures gathered more than 180 days before filing are invalid. While numerous articles in the popular press suggested that this new law would be applied to prevent MI Legalize from making the ballot, the law was not even discussed at this morning’s Board of Canvassers meeting. Instead, the Board rejected the petitions solely under the old law that was in effect at the time they were filed.

MI Legalize can be expected to file legal challenges imminently, likely both to the Board policy and the underlying statute. Given the tight time frames for further review of the petition signatures, consideration of a petition by the Legislature, and ballot deadlines, these legal challenges can be expected to proceed quickly. Check back in with the Cannabis Law Blog in the coming days for more coverage of the MI Legalize “battle for the ballot.”