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High hopes renewed 

Those of you not suffering from short-term memory loss will remember this year’s Personal Responsibility Amendment (PRA), an ill-fated attempt to put the issue of marijuana decriminalization on the Michigan ballot. Despite an intense effort from a legion of volunteers, petition gatherers were able to gather only about half of the more than 300,000 signatures needed to get the measure before voters.

Well, there’s good news out there for all of you who think it’s insane to put people in prison for smoking a little weed. According to Saginaw attorney Greg Schmid, who led the original effort, a new drive to put a revised PRA on the ballot will begin April 6, 2001. The troops will have six months to collect the 302,711 signatures needed.

Schmid likes his chances of success this time around. For one thing, he points out, supporters last time out had to recruit and train volunteers while the petition gathering was under way. Now a network of trained signature collectors is already in place.

“We’re going to be able to work a lot smarter this time,” explains Schmid.

Also, unlike this year’s effort, which began in February, this new attempt to qualify will take place entirely in warm weather, making the gathering of signatures a much easier task.

Finally, some changes have been made to the amendment itself. The right to grow industrial, nonintoxicating hemp has been added. By including a provision that will directly benefit Michigan farmers and local economies, Schmid expects to “add an important mix of constituents to our already large number of followers.”

Also added is language that would drastically reduce the ability of police agencies to seize the assets of people merely suspected of being involved in the drug trade.

“We’re trying to add some fundamental fairness to forfeiture proceedings,” explains Schmid.

People looking for more information on the issue can find it on the Web at www.mi4norml.org.

Curt Guyette is the Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail cguyette@metrotimes.com

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