Greg Schmid has high hopes.
With no financial backing, the Saginaw attorney is banking on 1,500 volunteers to help place a measure on Michigans November ballot that would decriminalize posession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Schmid, 39, launched the drive last month and has a June deadline for gathering the 302,711 valid signatures needed to place the Personal Responsibility Amendment 2000 before voters.
The measure would allow those 21 and older to possess up to 3 ounces of pot. It would also allow them to grown as many as three plants. Doing so, says Schmid, will allow users to bypass drug dealers.
"The whole purpose behind PRA 2000 is to break the back of drug dealing and to keep normal marijuana smokers out of the hands of drug dealers and the black market," says Schmid.
The initiative process is necessary, explains Schmid, because even liberal legislators have been reluctant to take a pro-marijuana stance.
"Weve asked politely for all these years, but now we dont ask," says Schmid. "We demand marijuana laws be changed."
Pot advocates have had some success in recent years passing medical marijuana initiatives in a few states, but none have allowed for the general use of the drug. And even in states where voters have allowed cancer patients and others who are seriously ill to toke up as a treatment, federal authorities have continued to crack down on those supplying the marijuana.
The fact that Schmid has no bankroll to put behind the effort is also seen as a considerable hurdle.
Scott Colvin, publications director for NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) in Washington, D.C., says hes skeptical a statewide initiative like Schmids can succeed without major funding. He points to the states where medical marijuana initiatives have passed Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Alaska, California, and Maine and notes they all had significant financial backing.
"I hope they can do it," says Colvin. "Its tough though, to get over 300,000 signatures by July without a professional agency running the campaign. Itll make it more difficult."
Michigan political analyst Bill Ballenger agreed. Although no polls have been taken regarding the measures popularity, he said it is unlikely to make it to the ballot, let alone be approved by voters statewide. "But," he adds, "stranger things have happened."
Schmid, however, is undeterred. He points to the strong support the measure has received during the one month petitions have been circulated.
"If we dont have 25,000 signatures already, Ill eat my hat," says Schmid.
Schmid also has technology on his side. In addition to having volunteers gathering signatures outside shopping malls in the traditional manner, petitions are also available for downloading on a Web site that contains more information about the initiative. It can be found online at www.ballot2000.net.