Marijuana Initiative Might Not Make Ballot

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An initiative to legalize possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana in Nevada might go up in smoke, after organizers forgot to file 6,000 petition signatures in southern Nevada.

Clark County Registrar Larry Lomax said Billy Rogers, president of the political consulting firm seeking to qualify the petition, is pleading for him to accept the 6,000 names.

“Unfortunately, the state law says they have to turn it all in by June 15,” Lomax told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The oversight doesn’t kill the petition, but it narrows the margin for error for the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana to qualify in 13 of the state’s 17 counties and secure a spot on the November statewide ballot.

An initial count found a sufficient number of signatures in 14 counties. Officials have yet to determine how many signatures are valid.

Steve George, spokesman for Secretary of State Dean Heller, said 70 percent of petition signatures are usually valid. Others are often duplicates or people who aren’t properly registered to vote.

In Clark County, organizers submitted about 35,000 signatures in support of the marijuana petition, with 31,360 needed to qualify.

If the petition fails to qualify in Clark County, it would have qualify in each of the other 13 counties validating signatures.

Rogers sent Lomax a letter Monday saying the signatures that organizers forgot to submit were properly notarized before the June 15 deadline.

“Your refusal to accept signatures gathered prior to June 15, 2004, may disenfranchise voters who signed the petition prior to June 15, 2004,” said Rogers, who works for the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., lobbying group.

Nevada has drawn moves to legalize marijuana in part because of the state’s liberal initiative laws and because voters have approved the use of marijuana for medical reasons.

But voters in 2002 overwhelmingly rejected Rogers’ efforts to legalize up to 3 ounces of marijuana.

The new measure would amend the Nevada Constitution to legalize possession of 1 ounce of marijuana sold, licensed and regulated by the state. It would also raise penalties for driving under the influence of a controlled substance and for selling marijuana to minors.

Voters would have to approve the measure in November and again in 2006 before it could take effect.