Petitions on marijuana, cigarettes await ruling
December 7, 2004
Petitions asking the Legislature to legalize possession of marijuana and to restrict where people can smoke cigarettes are sitting on the secretary of state’s desk waiting for a ruling on how many signatures they need to qualify.
The three petitions are in legal limbo because the Nevada Constitution says petitions need signatures totaling 10 percent of the number of people who voted in the last general election to qualify.
The marijuana petition collected 69,261 signatures, the “Clean Indoor Air Act” – banning smoking in most stores, malls, arenas and other areas – was signed by 64,828 Nevada voters and the casino industry’s Protect Nevadans from Secondhand Smoke petition has 74,347 signers.
All three are well above 51,337 signatures – which is 10 percent of the total voter turnout in 2002. That was the last general election when organizers of all three petition drives began collecting signers earlier this year.
But the petitions weren’t turned over to the secretary of state’s office until Nov. 9 – a week after this year’s general election.
If “last general election” is interpreted to mean the Nov. 2 vote, none of the three petitions would qualify because 831,563 Nevadans went to the polls this year, and that means each petition would need 83,157 signers.
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Elections Deputy Ronda Moore said the Nevada Supreme Court came to the conclusion in a case during the early 1990s, throwing out an attempt to recall a Reno city council member and saying “last general election” means just that – even if it was just a day before the petitions were turned in.
The decision involved a recall petition, not an initiative petition, and the recall language in the constitution has since been changed to prevent a repeat of the problem. But since the issue is so similar to the recall case, Moore said Secretary of State Dean Heller has asked the Attorney General’s Office to give its opinion on whether to qualify the three petitions for submission to lawmakers.
“I expect the issue will most likely end up in court no matter which way it goes,” Moore said.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.