Man Says Tally Close on Pot Petition Drive 

Man Says Tally Close on Pot Petition Drive 
Posted by FoM on July 06, 2000 at 07:12:34 PT
By Dawson Bell, Free Press Lansing Bureau 
Source: Detroit Free Press
Saginaw lawyer Greg Schmid has faced formidable hurdles in his quest to place a ballot proposal to legalize marijuana before Michigan voters in November. No real money. A ragtag bunch of 3,000 volunteer petition circulators recruited over the Internet. Coping with paranoia -- "Some people think this is a police front to identify drug users," Schmid said last week. 
But that doesn't mean he won't make it. "It would be a miracle. But we're within striking distance," he said, though he refused to say how close he is. If Schmid gets his Personal Responsibility Amendment to the state Constitution on the ballot, Michigan would be the first large state in the country to face the full scope of drug decriminalization -- skipping intermediate steps such as medical marijuana or replacing criminal with civil sanctions.Under the proposal, the possession of small amounts of marijuana (three plants, seedlings and up to three ounces of product) would be legal. The deadline for submitting petition signatures for the November election is Monday. Schmid said he won't turn them in unless he has more than 325,000 in hand; the campaign needs 302,711 valid signatures to qualify. He won't say how many he has. Schmid, who doesn't smoke cigarettes or pot and doesn't drink alcohol, said there is "obviously enough" grassroots support for a well-organized and financed campaign to put the question before voters. He said his motivation is a loathing for "hypocrisy in government" that was fueled by the so-far successful challenges to a 1998 Washington, D.C., medical marijuana initiative that passed by nearly 2-1. "I just love the initiative process," said Schmid, who also worked for passage of the Headlee property-tax initiative in 1978 and the term-limits initiative in 1993. Michigan is one of at least 10 states that could have some form of marijuana decriminalization on the ballot in the fall. Most address the question of medical use. But Alaskans, who have gone back and forth on the question in recent years, will vote on legalization. More likely to be on the Michigan ballot -- along with a school voucher proposal that has already been certified as having enough votes -- is a constitutional amendment backed by cities to limit the power of the state Legislature.The campaign to make "local votes count" is well over the 302,000-signature threshold, said Don Stypula, an official with the Michigan Municipal League. The initiative was prompted by the Legislature's decision earlier this year to strike down mandatory residency rules for municipal employees.Stypula said he expects "spirited and aggressive" opposition to the proposal from business groups and their allies. Robert LaBrant, with the state Chamber of Commerce, said Stypula's concerns are justified. The coalition opposing the proposal is likely to challenge the use of taxpayer funds contributed to the municipal league to pay for petition signatures. The coalition, which is scheduled to hold news conferences around the state today, also will argue that a provision requiring two-thirds votes of the Legislature to pass laws affecting local government amounts to "minority rule," LaBrant said.For more information on the marijuana amendment, visit: Dawson Bell at 313-222-6609 or dball freepress.comPublished: July 6, 2000  Copyright 2000 Detroit Free Press Related Articles: Michigan Attendance High At Marijuana March Petition Drive Seeks To Legalize Homegrown Pot
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