Marijuana initiative sponsors suing state

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- Backers of an initiative to decriminalize marijuana are suing the state to try to get the measure on the ballot.

Ken Jacobus, attorney for Free Hemp in Alaska, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Anchorage Superior Court, arguing the group should be able to get its initiative before voters despite failing to meet state record-keeping rules.

Earlier this month the Division of Elections said the group had not turned in enough valid signatures. The division rejected 194 of the group's petition booklets, citing poor record-keeping.

Jacobus acknowledged the group did not file sponsor accountability reports with all its petition booklets, which identify the person who circulated each booklet.

Jacobus said the sponsors' right to petition their government and enact laws by initiative is a constitutional right that trumps the state's administrative requirement for sponsor accountability reports.

''When you balance this constitutional right against an administrative requirement, the constitutional right wins,'' Jacobus said.

Jacobus also said an employee with the Division of Elections told petition backers they did not need the accountability reports as long as the person circulating the petition was a registered voter or an Alaska resident.

Sarah Felix, an attorney for the state, denied that an elections employee said the reports were not required.

The sponsor accountability reports are necessary to prevent fraud in the initiative process and are based on statute and regulation, Felix said.

''It's not just some sort of administrative paperwork,'' Felix said. ''It's the way the state verifies the legitimacy of the initiative signature booklets.''

The requirements were carefully written to comply with U.S. Supreme Court decisions, she said.

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