A 2015 poll by the Glengariff Group puts Michiganders’ support for legalizing, regulating, and taxing recreational marijuana at 56 percent and opposition at just 36 percent.[ii]
The voters of Michigan will likely have the opportunity in November to approve the legalization of recreational marijuana. Three organizations, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee, and a group called Abrogate Prohibition, are collecting signatures necessary to appear on a statewide ballot. Meanwhile, two state legislators, Representative Jeff Irwin from Ann Arbor, and Senator Coleman Young III from Detroit have introduced bills to legalize marijuana in the Michigan House and Senate; each bill has been stalled by its respective Judiciary Committee.
The first attempt to legalize recreational marijuana via a ballot initiative was in California in 1972;[iv]
Voters in Michigan realize that the state needs a new source of revenue. Citizen priorities include replacement of lead water pipes, road and bridge repair, adequately funded schools, and oil spill prevention. Currently, the state spends millions of dollars on policing and incarceration for marijuana offenses while any potential profit is lost in a black market. Legalization could bring that money into the state economy and provide state government with a means to alleviate many of Michigan’s problems.
The most recent ballot petition to emerge was written by Abrogate Prohibition Michigan (a division of Americans for Cannabis), and would appear on the ballot as the Michigan Abrogate Cannabis Prohibition Amendment. This measure would allow the voters to decide that marijuana sales and use would not only be completely legal, but would also be without regulation, taxes, or fines. If passed, this measure could prove catastrophic to government agencies tasked with crime prevention and public safety and health, the private entities that would stand to profit from marijuana consumption, and the state and local governments that would benefit from tax revenue.[vi]
The third petition, written by the group MI Legalize and supported by NORML, is called the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Measure. The law blurs the lines between the grower-patient relationship provided for by the Michigan Marijuana Act on one hand and recreational use on the other by allowing the tax-free sale of marijuana products from commercial establishments to those with proof of medical need. This petition is the only one of the three that mentions the establishment of a hemp industry, which may provide additional employment and revenue for the state. However, it calls for only a single excise tax to the consumer capped at a maximum of 10% and no tax would be permitted for the sale of hemp or hemp-related products. It also designates the tax revenue to specific areas – transportation, the school aid fund, and municipalities – which may or may not be the most effective use of the money.[viii] while allocating 40% of the tax revenue to both the school aid and transportation funds and the remaining 20% to substance abuse treatment programs through the Department of Health and Human Services.[x] As written in the bill, the goal of the legislation is to allow “law enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes, generating revenue for education and other public purposes,” including substance abuse prevention and the general fund, and “individual freedom.” Senator Young has also introduced Senate Joint Resolution O, which would go beyond the creation of a law to amend the state constitution to allow legal marijuana, just as the voters of Colorado did in 2012.
[ii] Marijuana on the Ballot (accessed April 8, 2016); available from ballotpedia.org.
[vii] Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Measure (2016) (accessed April 8, 2016); available from ballotpedia.org.
[ix] Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act, Michigan State House of Representatives, HB 4877: September 17, 2015.
[xi] Nonmedical Marijuana Code, Michigan State Senate, SB 0813: February 24, 2016.