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Federal Court Blocks Marijuana Initiative in Nevada
09 SEP 2004 - MPP

Yesterday, the Marijuana Policy Project's Nevada ballot initiative lost in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. MPP will probably be filing a final appeal with the court on Friday ... and we're gearing up for a monumental showdown with the Nevada legislature in January -- whether the court keeps us off the November 2 ballot or not.

At issue in yesterday's ruling was a decision by Nevada's elections officials to illegally disqualify thousands of signatures from people who filled out voter registration forms on the same day they signed our petitions. Three Ninth Circuit judges ruled 2-1 yesterday to allow the state's actions; our "en banc" appeal tomorrow will ask the full Ninth Circuit to review our case one last time. If the full court decides to grant us a hearing, the case would be ruled on by 11 judges, instead of yesterday's three. All of this would happen within two weeks -- in time for our initiative to make it onto the November ballot if the "en banc" court rules our way.

Meanwhile, we're keeping our troops on the ground in Las Vegas, continuing to build our enormous statewide coalition, adding 1,000 voters a day to our pile of more than 100,000 voters whom we've already identified as being supportive of, opposed to, or undecided about our initiative.

This is important work whether the initiative makes it onto the ballot or not, because we'll need these huge, sophisticated, accurate voter lists in key districts when we target certain state legislators with focused lobbying in January. (No matter what happens with our initiative, we're planning to lobby the legislature to pass our marijuana-regulation bill this winter.)

If approved by Nevada voters, MPP's initiative would make history. If enacted, the law would remove all penalties for marijuana use by adults aged 21 and older, as well as require the state government to authorize a system for the legal cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana to adults.

Since the Nevada government first began attempting to keep MPP's initiative off the ballot two months ago, we've had to fight on every front, every day. Nevada's elections officials openly broke the law during the recent recount of MPP's initiative signatures ... illegally disqualifying thousands of signatures from people who filled out voter registration forms on the same day they signed our petitions ... conducting a sloppy recount filled with errors and mismanagement ... and refusing to allow our campaign staffers to observe the recount process -- even though this right was granted to other
initiative campaigns.

Despite the outrageous corruption that MPP has been up against, we have won several battles -- including a recent federal court decision that threw out part of Nevada's constitution -- but yesterday's ruling was a heavy blow.

We're bleeding and we're on our knees -- but we're not dead yet.

Whether or not the elections officials' corruption keeps us off the November 2 ballot, we are already planning to put enormous pressure on the state legislature to regulate marijuana like alcohol when the legislature convenes in January.

As you may know, MPP succeeded in pushing good legislation through the Vermont Legislature in May, despite tremendous obstacles and the strong objections of the governor -- and our bill became law there in June.

We're going to do the same thing in Nevada.


Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

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