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Lansing — Marijuana activists working to place a legalization proposal on the 2016 ballot rallied Friday outside the state Capitol, urging elected officials to “free the weed” and celebrating a petition drive they launched at the same location last summer.

The MI Legalize committee has suffered a series of recent setbacks ahead of the June 1 deadline for petition submission, including legislative approval of a bill that could block its attempt to include older signatures that would typically not be counted by the state.

“We’ve scared the establishment,” executive director Jeff Hank told an eclectic crowd of more than 100 people. “…They are literally changing laws to try to prevent MI Legalize from proceeding. That should tell you we’re doing something right.”

MI Legalize, which urged volunteer circulators to bring petitions to the rally or mail them in, has now collected at least 315,000 since June 25, according toHank. The state requires 252,523 to make the ballot.

But many of the MI Legalize signatures were collected last year and may be invalidated under a state law and related policy requiring petitioners to collect within a 180-day window or go through an arduous process to “rehabilitate” older signatures.

The group argues the law is unconstitutional and the policy impossible to comply with. It’s threatening legal action against the state, according to Hank, especially if Gov. Rick Snyder signs a bill that would eliminate the rehabilitation option altogether.

“We don’t have the ability to really fight any of this unless we show up with enough signatures to get on the ballot,” board member Jamie Lowell said. “So that’s our main priority now. It’s why we’re here.”

joosting@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3662

twitter.com/jonathanoosting

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