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MILegalize Awaits a Decision in Michigan Court of Claims

New Buffalo, Michigan- The Four Winds Casino and Resort will host a fundraiser for the MILegalize organization on August 20, and key campaign officials confirm their status in the Court of Claims: waiting patiently.

New Buffalo is in the southwestern corner of Michigan, and the Four Winds casino is a top-notch facility. Fundraiser guests will gather in the private dining room of the casino’s outstanding dinner buffet- which features all-you-can-eat prime rib, crab legs, gourmet deserts and more! For those who like to eat, this is the ultimate feast.

Hostess and MILegalize Board member Josey Scoggin put together this wonderful party; she is also the co-founder of Sons and Daughters United, a medical marijuana-centered charity who pays the legal bills of some families struggling in Michigan’s court system.

Ticket prices range from $100 (individual), $500 (VIP Couple), and $1,000 for an entire VIP table. VIP tickets have additional benefits, as outlined on the MILegalize event page for the fundraiser, located HERE. There will be speakers addressing the attendees; this is a rare western Michigan event to support marijuana legalization. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance at MILegalize.com.

The event is three hours long, from 4pm until 7pm, and all guests are subject to the standard casino attendance restrictions and policies. There is child care available on-site, per the flyer. Most criminal defense attorneys in Michigan advise people to not consume medical marijuana on-site, even in your parked car, as the rules on casino property are different and a medical use may not be recognized.

Trying to change that situation: MILegalize. The marijuana legalization Committee is still stuck in the Michigan Court of Claims, awaiting a decision on their writ of mandamus seeking to force the Board of State Canvassers (BOSC) to validate the 354,000 signatures the group submitted on June 1.

Michigan law allows citizen-directed initiatives that do not seek a Constitutional amendment the entire time period between gubernatorial elections to collect signatures from voters on petitions- which could be up to four years. A longstanding BOSC policy allows for a standard 180-day campaign window, wherein the validity of the signatures is confirmed on the date the paper was signed, and a non-standard campaign window for any signatures older than 180 days, where the signatures would have to be verified on two dates: the date signed and the date submitted.

The current policy involves certifications from each individual County in Michigan (there are 83) of all the petition signers from that county, and was created before electronic spreadsheets and databases became the normal way of doing the government’s business.  Earlier this year the BOSC created a plan to update their 30-year old procedure for double-validating the voter registration of signatures older than 180 days. In the case of MILegalize, those are signatures gathered between June 25 and December 1, 2015.

First, BOSC staffers drafted the new procedural policy to verify signatures that did not involve the clerks; then, the Board rejected their own rules update on a tie vote with two Dems saying YES and two Repubs saying NO; then the Board followed up with a letter sent to all 83 county clerks which explained how they would be asked to verify petitions by groups including the MILegalize organization- but that the clerks didn’t actually have to comply with that request.

Even though the BOSC established a legal requirement to submit petitions to the county clerks for validation, the BOSC also let the clerks opt-out of the validation process, ensuring the petition drive would fail. When asked, most of the clerks in Michigan did reject the petition validation requests made by various organizations.

This impossible standard, established by the BOSC, is what MILegalize is fighting in Court.

Another petitioning organization which sought to ban fracking from Michigan also sued the government in the Court of Claims, with the same judge. Their suit challenged the new law, established by the Michigan legislature in 2016, which removes the four-year petitioning period and replaces it with a strict 180-day rule. The judge recently dismissed their case partly because he believes they did not have standing to challenge the rule since the anti-fracking petitions were never submitted.

This movement by the judge on the anti-fracking lawsuit may signal that a decision is near on the MILegalize case, a sentiment expressed by several MILegalize Board members. Further legal hurdles await the organization; and the fundraiser in New Boston will enable MILegalize to continue battling to put the legalization issue on the ballot.