Although previous attempts to legalize taxed and regulated marijuana in Michigan have failed, the state now stands a fighting chance at becoming the next in line to legalize the leaf for recreational use.
The state’s Bureau of Elections announced earlier this week that the advocatees pushing to legalize marijuana in Michigan had collected 277,370 valid signatures, well over the required amount of 252,523 verified signatures to get a petition to qualify for ballot access in the November election.
Now, contingent on the approval of election officials, which is scheduled for Thursday, it seems that Michiganders could be in a unique position to become the first jurisdiction in the Midwest to allow adults to purchase cannabis products in a manner similar to alcohol.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA), which is the group pushing for legal adult-use marijuana in Michigan, apparently turned in over 365,384 signatures total, and they now will face the Board of Canvassers to determine whether the initiative will go on the ballot. For now, all of the agencies involved in the process seem confident that the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act is moving on to the next phase.
“This is something we’ve been waiting on for a long time. Assuming the Board of Canvassers approves our petition, it’s one milestone. But the ultimate one is in November and that’s what we’re focusing on,” Josh Hovey, spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.
The proposal is similar to others we have watched states enact across the nation, ever since Colorado became the first state to bring adult-use marijuana out of the underground. The proposed Michigan initiative would legalize the possession of 2.5 ounces of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Citizens would also be permitted to keep up to 10 ounces at home. The initiative also comes with a handsome home cannabis cultivation provision. It gives adults the freedom to grow up to 12 plants at home for personal use. Of course, if the voters approve the measure, the emergence of a recreational cannabis industry would undoubtedly come swooping in, bringing with it thousands of new jobs and substantial tax revenue for the state. Recent estimates assert that Michigan could easily rake in $1 billion during the first year.
The tax revenue from the sale of cannabis (10 percent excise and a 6 percent sales tax) would go toward schools and roads. A percentage of the funds would also be spent on researching how medical marijuana can help veterans suffering from PTSD.
There has been some talk in recent weeks that the Michigan legislature is working to legalize recreational marijuana before the CRMLA initiative ever has a chance to hit the ballot. The Detroit Free Press reported that Republican lawmakers were considering a push for pot reform in an effort stave off a large Democratic turnout at the polls in November. But legalizing through legislative channels is not something that seems likely to happen anymore. In fact, Senator Rick Jones told the Free Press, “There is absolutely no chance that the Senate will take up marijuana legalization for recreational use.”
“I’m opposed to it and I think the vast majority of the caucus is opposed,” he added. “We’ll just leave it up to the voters.”
Fortunately, the voters will get a say. The CRMLA initiative has a strong community of support. The Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Cannabis Industry Association and Michigan NORML (and others) are backing the initiative — all groups with the power to secure the necessary funding to ensure the campaign is a success.
But will Michigan voters support the initiative? Probably, but it could be a close one. One of the latest polls shows that 58 percent of the voting public would cast a favorable ballot for the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act in it put in front of them. So as long as voter turnout is strong, the proposal has a solid shot at going the distance.
TELL US, do you think Michigan will legalize marijuana in November?