Hemp initiative snuffed

Lieutenant governor throws out petition due to invalid signatures

Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Lt. Gov. Loren Leman stopped an initiative drive seeking to decriminalize marijuana, ruling Tuesday that hundreds of signatures collected were not valid.

Anchorage resident Tim Hinterberger, one of three primary sponsors of the initiative, said today he has not seen the ruling, but added he expects to appeal the decision.

"It's not going to go away," said Hinterberger, a 47-year-old student at the University of Alaska Anchorage. "Marijuana legalization is going to happen whether it's a continuation of our effort or somebody else's effort."

Leman, a former state senator who sponsored a bill in 1999 to turn back the state's medical marijuana laws, said in a statement that the pro-marijuana group will have to begin from scratch to get its measure before voters in 2004.

The proposed initiative would have asked voters in the August 2004 primary ballot to decriminalize and regulate marijuana.

Backers submitted 484 booklets containing signatures of Alaskans who supported putting the measure on the ballot. But officials with the state Division of Elections found several discrepancies in the petitions, Leman said in a press statement.

In several instances the identity of those who signed the petitions could not be verified or were not registered voters, a spokeswoman for the Division of Elections said.

Election workers also did not count 194 booklets containing signatures because of poor record keeping, the division said.

Alaska law requires a petition drive to collect signatures equal to 10 percent of the voters in the previous statewide election to get an initiative on the ballot.

Backers of the marijuana initiative needed 28,782 signatures to get the measure on the 2004 ballot. The state Division of Elections verified 21,737 signatures of registered voters, said spokeswoman Virginia Breeze.

The lieutenant governor's office said initiative sponsors will have to start the petition process again to get it on the ballot.

Along with Hinterberger, Georgia Mario of Chugiak and Randall Patterson of Anchorage were listed as primary sponsors of the initiative.

Juneau Empire reporter Tim Inklebarger contributed to this article.

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