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Why We Didn't Vote on Medical Marijuana

With other states going for weed in a big way (Washington, Oregon, Colorado and others), it’s a bit of a surprise that North Dakota citizens didn’t get a chance to vote on the issue. The petitions were turned in on time and all seemed smooth sailing – until questions arose about the validity of the signatures.

When a petition for a ballot measure is submitted, whoever submits it has to authenticate that the signatures are valid – real people who are entitled to vote in North Dakota. Without this authentication, the entire block of submitted signatures can be voided. And that’s what happened here.

There were 15 different petition copies circulated and, although none of the people responsible have been charged with fraud, as soon as one or more signatures were found to be invalid, some of the circulators refused to authenticate their petitions. Our Secretary of State, Al Jaeger, rejected those petitions where bogus signatures were found and that dropped the numbers down below the threshold to get the measure on the ballot.

But it was a close thing. Up until the last minute, the North Dakota branch of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) was petitioning our supreme court to rule that a few invalid signatures was not enough cause to toss an entire copy of the petition. The case was refused by the supreme court, essentially killing the vote for this voting cycle.

Expect legalization proponents to return next election cycle with a more carefully vetted product. The next statewide ballot will be in two years. Meanwhile, advocates consider it a “lesson learned” and will be more cautious about what they submit the next time around.

According to the Dickinson Press article, Steve Zaiser, a state legislator from Fargo and chairman of the group pushing for medical marijuana, said, "Now they're not even going to have a chance for North Dakotans to say 'yea' or 'nay' on this issue, and it really saddens me."

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