Legal Marijuana Petition Still Alive in Nevada

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U.S. District Judge James Mahan has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state from further action on a marijuana initiative petition that lacks the necessary signatures to qualify for the Nevada ballot.

Mahan has set Aug. 13 for oral arguments on a lawsuit by the Nevada chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and groups supporting the petition to allow adults to possess and use one ounce of marijuana.

Allen Lichtenstein, the Las Vegas lawyer for the ACLU, said the temporary restraining order issued Friday prevents any more action by Secretary of State Dean Heller that might disqualify the petition.

"This is a really good sign," said Jennifer Knight, spokeswoman for the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana. "The fact that this judge issued a temporary restraining order in our case means that it has merit."

"We're planning for success," Knight said, noting that the committee is continuing its campaign, including television ads and meeting with community groups.

Renee Parker, chief deputy secretary of state, said the initiative had 50,088 valid signatures and needed 51,337 to qualify for the ballot.

Parker said the secretary of state's office followed orders of Carson City District Judge Bill Maddox who ruled that signatures on petitions which didn't include an affidavit signed by a registered voter must be counted. In the case of the marijuana petition, slightly more than 15,000 signatures were added after the ruling.

The decision by Maddox involved petitions to raise the minimum wage and to prevent frivolous suits. Parker said her office then applied the ruling to the marijuana petition but it still came up short.

The suit by the ACLU, the Marijuana Policy Project and the Committee to regulate and Control Marijuana, challenges a section in the Nevada Constitution that requires an initiative petition have 10 percent of the voters in 13 of the 17 counties to sign the documents.

The suit also challenges the decision of Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax to exclude the signatures of those who registered to vote on the same day they signed the petition. That totaled 2,039 signatures.

Parker said the petition only succeeded in 12 of the 17 counties. In Clark County petition supporters fell short of the required 31,350 names by about 4,500 signatures.