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ND Supreme Court Won’t Hear Med Marijuana Case

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A medical marijuana initiative will not be on the November ballot, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

In a one-page order, the court denied a request by the measure’s supporters to review Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s decision to block the initiative. Jaeger said there was ample evidence that North Dakota State University football players had committed fraud after they were hired to circulate the petition.

The measure sought to establish a state-regulated system of medical marijuana dispensaries where people could buy the drug if a doctor recommended its use for pain relief.

The court said it would detail its reasoning later.

Jaeger, who certified the final version of the ballot earlier this month, said the initiative would have wreaked “chaos” on election planners. More than 40 of North Dakota’s 53 counties are already in the process of printing ballots, he said.

Ballots for military voters and North Dakotans wishing to vote early must be ready soon, Jaeger said Wednesday.

“I was hopeful. I thought we had a very good case. I know that we did it right,” Jaeger said. “So I’m pleased, and I’m happy the court made the decision that they did.”

A group of NDSU players face misdemeanor charges for allegedly forging signatures on the petitions they circulated. Supporters of the measure argued in a Supreme Court filing last week that some of the signatures were legitimate, and that Jaeger had made no effort to distinguish the valid from the fabricated.

State Rep. Steve Zaiser, D-Fargo, the chairman of the initiative campaign, said he was disappointed.

“Those people that are least strong, and least can afford it, are those that are getting kind of pinched out of a remedy for severe pain,” Zaiser said. “They are again victims of the situation of some college kids kind of playing around with forging signatures.”

Seventeen states, including Montana, and the District of Columbia have approved marijuana for medical use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. South Dakota voters have rejected the idea twice.

The North Dakota measure would have put the Health Department in charge of registering marijuana users and licensing dispensaries. It said each of the state’s eight largest counties could have one dispensary each.

Supporters of the measure turned in more than 20,000 petition signatures, well above the minimum of 13,452 needed to win a spot on the ballot. However, Jaeger, after reviewing the petitions, disqualified almost 7,000 names earlier this month.

Zaiser said he hoped the idea would be taken up again.

“A lot of people put a lot of effort into this thing,” Zaiser said. “It is hard to see it go down the drain because of some fraudulent acts.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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