Pubdate: Wed, 15 Sep 2004
Source: Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (MN)
Copyright: 2004 Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
Author: Rashard Zanders
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project ( )
Cited: Citizens Organized for Harm Reduction ( )
Bookmark: (Ballot Initiatives)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the largest
marijuana policy reform organization in the United States, announced
last week that it is suing the City of Minneapolis on behalf of
Citizens Organized for Harm Reduction (COHR), to compel the City to
allow a vote on a medical marijuana charter amendment.

The nearly 700 additional signatures turned in by COHR on August 30
guaranteed that COHR organizers had obtained enough signatures to
qualify the measure, but the Minneapolis City Council, by an eight to
four vote, has refused to put the proposed charter amendment before
voters. Council Member Dean Zimmerman, who supported the measure,
responded to MSR's invitation to comment on the vote:

"I think the reason the city council voted it down was that the
subject was not a proper item for the charter. The view is that the
charter should be about how the City is structured," Zimmerman said.

Last month, Detroit, Michigan's city council approved a proposal
similar to the one COHR canvassed for last month. Ann Arbor also has
the issue on the ballot this fall. Zimmerman noted, "Other places that
had this measure, it passed everywhere else. It's an issue elected
officials don't want to touch because it is so controversial."

"It's puzzling to us that they don't want to let the people of the
city speak on this issue," said Bill Mirken, the director of
communications of MPP.

The charter process was instituted as a way for citizens to go around
elected officials unresponsive to issues they deem important. How the
process emerges from this conflict remains to be seen.

Don Haumant is lead plaintiff in the action, a Minneapolis voter who
was a legally registered medical marijuana patient during the time he
lived in California, and who is being deprived of his right to vote on
the amendment by the City's action.

The suit, filed Friday, September 3, in the District Court of the
Fourth Judicial District, Hennepin County, argues that the proposed
charter amendment "meets all of the statutory requirements set forth
in Minnesota Statute 410.12," and that therefore Minneapolis Director
of Elections Susanne Griffin "is totally without legal authority to
refuse to place the proposed charter amendment submitted by Petitioner
and others on the November 2, 2004 general election ballot in the City
of Minneapolis."

"The City Council's action was grossly undemocratic, disenfranchising
the more than 12,000 Minneapolis voters who signed the petitions in
good faith," said Neal Levine, a former Minneapolis resident who now
serves as director of state policies for MPP. "The reasons given for
keeping the charter amendment off the ballot simply do not jibe with
either the law or the plain language of the proposed amendment. We are
happy to put our resources behind COHR and Mr. Haumant in order to
make sure that the voters' rights are respected."

"Based on our review with our attorneys, the only way they can keep
something off the ballot is if it's manifestly unconstitutional, which
it [the charter amendment] isn't," said Mirken.

Under the proposed charter amendment, Minneapolis would authorize
medical marijuana distribution centers to serve patients using
marijuana with their physicians' recommendations "to the extent
permitted by state and federal law." Haumant, who suffers from pain
and nausea related to liver disease, made use of a similar system
while a resident of San Francisco, according to a statement from MPP.

"What the charter states doesn't jibe with the city council's reasons
against it. This looks to be a pretty clear-cut case. We wouldn't have
sued if we didn't think we could win. As we understood the situation,
the only thing we could do to get this on the ballot is go to court,"
said Mirken.

The hearing was scheduled for Monday, September 13, at 1:45 pm in the
District Court of Hennepin County. MSR will keep readers informed of
the outcome.

The Marijuana Policy Project works to minimize the harm associated
with marijuana. MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with
marijuana is imprisonment of non-violent offenders at the public's
expense, by using up prison space that should be used for violent offenders.

For more information on medical marijuana, visit
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake