LAS VEGAS – A federal judge Friday breathed new life into an initiative to legalize up to one ounce of marijuana, declaring unconstitutional two petition requirements that left the measure short of qualifying for the ballot.
However, Judge James Mahan (search) refused to order the marijuana issue placed on the Nov. 2 ballot. Instead, he said verification of the 66,000 names on petitions would determine if supporters reached the required 51,337 valid signatures.
"If you've got the signatures, then it's on the ballot," Mahan told lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (search) of Nevada, the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana (search), and the Marijuana Policy Project.
A previous count using sampling techniques showed signatures fell 1,024 short of the requirement. County election officials have until Aug. 31 to verify signatures.
Matthew Brinckerhoff, a lawyer representing the two marijuana advocacy groups, said there was "a decent likelihood" of qualifying the initiative to let Nevada adults possess and use one ounce of marijuana.
Nevada voters have approved the use of marijuana for medical reasons.
Because the latest measure would amend the Nevada Constitution, voters would have to approve it in November and again in 2006 before it could take effect.
In his ruling, Mahan invalidated Nevada's "13 counties rule" because it gave more weight to rural counties than populous areas.
The rule required initiative supporters to collect signatures from at least 10 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the most recent general election in at least 13 of the state's 17 counties.
He also declared Nevada's "dual affidavit" requirement unconstitutional; it requires the person collecting signatures to vouch for the validity of names on both the petition and on a separate document.