Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

Michigan Marijuana Legalization Initiative Probably Won't Make Ballot

Rule controlling when signatures may be gathered to blame.


Carlos Gracia / CC BY

An effort in Michigan to let voters decide whether to legalize marijuana got plenty of signatures to appear on the fall ballot, even if tens of thousands were tossed out as fake or invalid. Proponents of the initiative submitted 354,000 signatures, 100,000 more than the state required.

But there is another rule that apparently is going to keep Michigan voters from getting the chance to decide. Michigan law requires that all signatures to get on the ballot be gathered within a 180-day time frame. MI Legalize, the group pushing the initiative, got a good chunk of signatures prior to the 180-day window. MI Legalize has challenged the mandate, saying that requiring all the signatures be gathered within that window is unconstitutional and not supported by state law.

There's an interesting twist on their claims, the Detroit Free Press reports. While the 180-day rule has been uncontested all along, MI Legalize is correct: It was not technically state law when they gathered the sigantures. Guess what happened next:

The requirement did not become state law until Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill on June 8. His signing was announced minutes after the State Board of Canvassers voted 4-0 to disallow the 137,000 signatures, and less than a week after MI Legalize submitted a total of more than 354,000 signatures. The group needed about 253,000 signatures to be certified by state elections officials for a ballot spot.

In 1986, the Michigan Supreme Court upheld the 180-day signature window for petitions to amend the state constitution. But the MI Legalize complaint concerns the far more commonplace petition drives for ordinary ballot questions, which do not attempt to change the state constitution.

MI Legalize challenged the decision but the state's Michigan Court of Claims just upheld the decision. The group is filing an emergency appeal to try to get it in front of Michigan's Supreme Court. The Detroit Free Press notes that they've only got a couple of weeks to get a favorable ruling before clerks start getting ballots printed. Otherwise they might have to try to get it onto the 2018 ballot, assuming we're still having this fight about marijuana (Spoiler: We will be).