“Constitutional conservatives”, yes, even at the state level, believe that their main, driving purpose is to protect the constitution, both at the federal level and the state level. Agree or disagree, it is what they claim to want, fight for, and live for. That is, except when they disagree with said constitutions.
Case in point on the state level is a little-known reality in our constitution that basically says that, as a citizen, if the legislature fails to respond to the will of the people, the people have a right to petition the public to create laws the legislature refuses to, for whatever reason they choose.
Fair enough, right?
Well, yes and no. But allow me to try to simplify this and explain.
There is a fair-minded reform group, headed by Lansing attorney Jeff Hank, that is making every effort, through the constitutional process, to petition the people of Michigan to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Their efforts are endorsed by national and local organizations like NORML and Michigan LEAP. There is no surprise there. But this is where it gets very interesting. As Hanks points out, the refusal, until very recently, to honor the constitution, has nothing to do with marijuana and everything to do with the hypocrisy of the state legislature and their constitutional conservative costumes.
As those who follow petition drives in Michigan know, you have a set period of time to collect signatures, assumed to be 180 days. I say “assumed” because it seems that the state constitution says you actually have four years. The 180-day window was never intended to be the collection period at all but the length of time – established before such things like computers – the state actually had to go to every election official in the state to verify the voter rolls. That is NO LONGER an issue so the 180-day window – which was never intended to be the dead-set collection period for petitions – is a moot point. Unless, of course, you are a Republican in Michigan and believe the constitution is only useful when it advances your agenda.
MILegalize.com is a case in point, among many other cases in point, to be honest.
No matter how you may feel about the legalization of marijuana, you should have very definitive feelings about the way in which the GOP-controlled legislature is acting, especially among the so-called constitutional conservatives and how they interpret or ignore the constitution.
A recent court ruling recently overturned a state GOP law, signed by Governor Rick Snyder, that took away the ability of school systems to educate their residents about millage renewals, sinking fund requests, and tax increases for their schools 60 days before an election. Not only were school districts outraged, so were most in the communities they serve. The court ruled the law was unconstitutional and overturned the law, which the state agreed this week to honor.
Now we have Senate Bill 776 that, if it passes the House and is signed by the Governor – which I am sure it will be – will create that 180-window the constitution forbids. This is all in response to Jeff Hanks finding within the constitution, not a loophole, but a reality that for decades the state has improperly and unconstitutionally limited the collection of signatures to the aforementioned 180-day window. Imagine the petitions that have been signed and came up just short that would have benefited from the revelation of this constitutional guarantee, which was not discovered until a few weeks ago.
Although the mainstream media has covered this story to a small degree, this is NOT, I repeat NOT about MILegalize.com but about the constitution and how we perceive it.
Even former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley had the foresight to rule in favor of the constitution decades ago. But his ruling has been ignored for many years now and the GOP response to this discovery was to close the window.
The problem? You can’t change the constitution without a vote of the people and while the Chair of the House Elections Committee, Rep. Lisa Lyons (R) will allow two efforts currently under way, MILegalize.com and the anti-fracking measure the extra time to collect signatures, she is also endorsing the bill that will close the real window of four years to the 180-day window that is currently unconstitutional.
This is not an easy issue to work through and if I were to get into the details in full I would lose you. But I can safely say this explanation is the real broad strokes of what is a major diss of our state constitution. Clearly, even after a recent court ruling that sends a message to the legislature that passing unconstitutional laws is NOT legal and is ripe for legal challenge. But they seemingly do not care for the constitution or the law. Hardly a surprise.
As for the pro-legalization efforts of MILegalize.com, they are very close to their goal of collecting enough signatures to place this measure on the November ballot and have until June 1 to complete their mission. However, they do need help and are offering to pay people to help collect signatures. Just go to their website and click on the Volunteer Packages link for instructions on how you can help. Remember, close is not close enough and if you believe that allowing legal use of recreational marijuana and ending the 20,000 unnecessary arrests of people each year for marijuana-related crimes, your time and energies are needed now.