In 2016, Michigan was very close to being one of the states that got the opportunity to vote on whether to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older – but due to a change in the signature certifying process, the ballot initiative (led by MILegalize) never reached voters. This year, things appear to be going better for a group of activists who are proposing the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, and who just recently turned in their signatures.
The Bureau of Elections announced that they estimated that organizers collected 277,370 signatures that were able to be validated, which surpasses the 252,523 that are required to qualify for the ballot in November. The Board of State Canvassers is expected to certify the count later this week.
“Michiganders have the right to decide this important issue, and Senator Peters supports the ballot initiative effort underway in the state to legalize marijuana for recreational use,” a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D), told VICE. “Senator Peters believes this change will generate desperately needed tax revenue to support Michigan’s deteriorating schools and aging roads and bridges, and prevent people who use marijuana from ending up in the prison pipeline.”
The proposed act would allow adults 21 and older to possess, grow and use cannabis legally. It would allow for possession of up to 2.5 ounces when outside the home, and up to 10 ounces in the home. However, in addition to those 10 ounces, individuals would also be allowed to possess any cannabis they grew themselves, with a limit of 12 plants per household.
The legislation would also impose a 10 percent excise tax on retail sales in addition to the state’s regular six percent sales tax, and it suggests that revenue would cover the cost of regulation and still be able to fund schools, roads, local governments and FDA-approved research into medical marijuana’s potential for treating veterans with PTSD, among other conditions.
When it comes to licenses, it would leave state regulators to grant business licenses to cultivators, processors, testing facilities, secure transportation services, retail stores and microbusinesses. ‘Microbusinesses’ includes small businesses that grow a low number of plants where the product is sold to consumers – so this initiative even provides a way for smaller “mom and pop” style operations to have a shot at succcess in this industry.
“It’s time to decriminalize medical and recreational marijuana. It’s also important to move forward thoughtfully and work closely with law enforcement, public health officials, business leaders and communities to ensure we get this right and avoid unintended consequences,” Sen. Debbie Stebenow (D), told VICE through a spokesperson.
It is great to see that this initiative has already reached its chance at the ballot, giving voters in Michigan a chance to legalize cannabis – a chance which they had taken away from them at the last minute in the 2016 election.
However, there is also a chance that, with support on both sides of the political divide, this initiative could be adopted by state lawmakers without ever needing to be put to a vote.
Many Republican lawmakers are considering their options and wondering if it might be better to act now, rather than wait for voter approval, which is almost guaranteed if recent polls are accurate. One of the latest surveys found that 61 percent of voters in Michigan are in favor of legalization, so it is a very real possibility that lawmakers will forego the vote and simply adopt and start implementing the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. As it appears, legalization in Michigan has a great opportunity to become reality before the end of the year, possibly even before the November election.