Michigan residents may have the chance to vote on legalizing recreational cannabis this November, unless the state legislature legalizes it first. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol collected over 360,000 signatures on a petition to put a measure calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana sales and use on this year's state election ballot. This week, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers gave their final approval of the petition.
"This November, Michigan voters will finally get the chance to eliminate Michigan's outdated marijuana laws," coalition spokesman John Truscott said in a statement reported by Bridge Michigan. "Just like with alcohol, it is clear that prohibition doesn't work and that regulation and taxation is a far better solution."
The proposed Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act would make it legal for adults 21 and up to possess up to 2.5 ounces of weed. The initiative would also create a licensed retail market, taxing all cannabis sales at 10%, in addition to the standard state sales tax of 6%. Thirty percent of the tax revenue would go to individual cities and counties that allow canna-businesses, and the remaining revenue would go to funding education and road repairs in the state. Individual towns would also be allowed to opt-out of allowing canna-businesses in their jurisdictions.
Recent polls conducted by Michigan NORML found that 61% of voters said that they would vote for legalization, but there is still a vocal element in Michigan fighting against legalization. National anti-cannabis lobbyists Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) spent $150,000 to create "Healthy and Productive Michigan," a nonprofit dedicated to fighting against legalization in the Great Lake State. This group tried to get the Board of Canvassers to reject the ballot proposal on grounds that marijuana is federally illegal. The board refused, however, noting that resolving the federal issue was outside the scope of its powers.
Although the petition has been fully approved, state lawmakers have the power to stop the measure from coming up for a public vote. The state legislature can hold their own vote on the measure or propose a competing ballot measure. Cannabis legalization is known to be an issue that inspires young, Democratic voters to turn out to vote, which could be bad news for the state legislature's Republican majority. If the legislature were to preemptively legalize pot, it could affect the turnout at this year's general election.
Even if the measure does succeed, it could take a while for the state to work out the legal framework necessary to regulate retail sales, given the state's track record with medical marijuana regulations. The state passed a lightly-regulated medical cannabis program back in 2008, but then passed a much more restrictive set of regulations in 2016. Many of the state's current canna-businesses have been struggling to comply with these new rules, and Michigan officials recently demanded that over 200 unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries shut their doors.