Medical marijuana petitions won’t require as many signatures as expected

By CHARLES S. JOHNSON Missoulian State Bureau missoulian.com

HELENA – Medical marijuana advocates preparing to mount a signature-gathering effort to suspend a soon-to-enacted law restricting the industry won’t need to collect nearly as many names as they initially believed.

They will need to obtain between 31,238 and 43,247 signatures, depending on which state House districts they use, but they don’t need to gather a total of 73,010 signatures as some originally believed.

Once Gov. Brian Schweitzer lets Senate Bill 423, by Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, become law without his signature, they can take the initial steps needed to launch a signature-gathering effort. Suspension backers first must file documents with the secretary of state’s office, which triggers a review by several state offices.

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch’s office concluded Tuesday that any efforts to suspend laws need only the signatures of at least 15 percent of the registered voters in at least 51 of the state House districts as the Montana Constitution specifies.

They do not also need to obtain the signatures of 15 percent of the total number of people who voted for governor in 2008, said Jorge Quintana, the office’s chief legal counsel.

That will make a huge difference in the signature-gathering efforts.

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