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Michigan Votes to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis, a First for the Midwest

Michigan Legalizes Cannabis Now
Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now

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Michigan Votes to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis, a First for the Midwest

Cannabis is set to become legal in Michigan after voters in the Wolverine State passed Proposal 1 during the 2018 midterm elections. 

The passage of Prop 1 makes Michigan the 10th state in the nation and the first in the Midwest to legalize cannabis for “recreational” use, joining California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and Washington, D.C.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol declared victory late Tuesday night, as Proposal 1 garnered 57.7 percent of the vote, with 53 percent of the precincts responding. By the time all of the votes were counted, Proposal 1 had comfortably won with 55.8 percent of the vote.

“The Proposal 1 campaign boiled down into one of fact versus fear,” the Coalition’s Josh Hovey told the Detroit Free Press as the results came in. “The data from the nine other states to have legalized marijuana made clear that regulation and taxation are a better solution. Legalization of marijuana will end the unnecessary waste of law enforcement resources used to enforce the failed policy of prohibition while generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year for Michigan’s most important needs.”

Proposal 1, otherwise known as the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, allows those 21-years-old and over to carry 2.5 ounces of cannabis in public and to have up to 10 ounces and 12 plants at home — as long as they are not grown in a location visible from outside.

The proposal will not allow cannabis use in a public place or a private location where the proprietor forbids it. The proposal will also not override workplace drug policies. This law will go into effect in 10 days, though it will likely be years before regulated shops will be opened.

The State Eyes Windfall from Cannabis Taxes, Savings from Lower Enforcement

The measure calls for licensing of businesses to cultivate, process, test, transport and sell cannabis. The plan calls for a 10 percent excise tax on retail cannabis sales in addition to the state’s standard 6 percent sales tax. The plan is designed to align with a new, stronger regulatory system for medical marijuana businesses in Michigan. Proponents say it could add millions annually in tax revenue.

“We’re wasting $90 million a year enforcing a failed policy of marijuana prohibition and polls across the country show that 66 percent of voters want to see marijuana legalized and regulated,” Hovey told Grand Rapids’ 24 Hour News 8 before polls closed. “If we don’t get on top of this now with some strong regulations, it’s going to get too far beyond us.”

“Look at the never-ending cycle, especially in our urban areas, of young men and women getting arrested for something like a dime bag of weed,” added Prop 1 advocate Jay Jones. “They’re going into the system. They’re not getting jobs so they’re turning back to crime and it’s just a never-ending cycle.”

Others emphasized the coming challenge of crafting the new system with a sense of equity for the communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition.

“We still have to work out… restoring people’s justice,” said Cannabis Legal Group principal attorney Barton Morris after victory was declared. “There are thousands upon thousands of individuals that have been disproportionately affected with cannabis-related convictions. We have to remove those convictions off their record.”

Michigan’s New Cannabis Order

Under Michigan’s constitution, voter-approved initiatives “take effect 10 days after the date of the official declaration of the vote.” That count doesn’t start until the election results are certified by the Board of State Canvassers, a process that usually takes about three weeks. Then, before retail sales begin, Michigan’s state and local governments must establish regulations for oversight of the business. That is likely to take at least two years, with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) given 24 months to draft the licenses.

The state’s municipalities will be able to opt out of allowing retail cannabis sales. Localities will also be able to place a limit on the number of retail outlets they allow. So the availability is likely to be very uneven statewide.

It is clear that there will be local resistance. This is made evident by the organized opposition to Prop 1.

“Obviously the results of today’s election were not what we hoped for. It is important to note that more Michiganders voted no on [Proposal 1] than on the other two proposals,” a spokesperson for Healthy and Productive Michigan told Detroit’s WXYZ after the vote. “While our side lost tonight, it is important to recognize the level of responsibility that now rests on the shoulders of those who have voted yes.”

TELL US, which Midwestern state do you think will be next to legalize cannabis?

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