Anti-Cannabis Lobbyists Spend Big in Michigan as Legalization Takes Last Step Towards Popular Vote
Cannabis adversaries did not challenge a legal weed petition from Michigan advocates, but they are already gearing up to fight cannabis reform before November’s expected adult-use legalization vote.
Published on February 12, 2018

The movement to bring legal weed to America's Midwest took a significant step this past Friday, as Michigan's Committee to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol successfully passed a petition with over 350,000 signatures demanding adult-use legalization on to state regulators without any challenge.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the legalization lobbying group passed Friday's deadline with no outside objections to signature validity for their public-supported legalization proposal. Now, the Michigan Secretary of State's election office must verify a 500-signature sample before granting the cannabis reform petition a place on the state's November ballot.

And with 362,102 signatures collected — over 100,000 more than what the state requires — legalization advocates and detractors alike are confident that the measure will be accepted.

"It's great news, it shows the opposition must feel that we have a well-worded proposal, but that doesn't mean we're taking anything for granted," Josh Hovey, spokesman for the Committee to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, said of Friday's passed deadline.

But, as Michigan's latest legalization proposal appears a shoo-in for a public vote this fall, deep-pocketed anti-cannabis lobbyists are already focusing their sights and bank accounts on the Wolverine State, trying their hardest to keep legal weed from spreading to America's heartland.

According to a report from the Detroit News, the national anti-weed advocacy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) has spent $150,000 to create "Healthy and Productive Michigan," a registered nonprofit with the sole goal of stopping the expected ballot measure from the Committee to Regulate. So far, SAM is the organization's only donor.

"Michigan is a priority because it's been targeted by the pot industry," Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said. "They see it as an opportunity to make a lot of money."

In addition to SAM, another, smaller group, The Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools, has received only one donation of $5,000 from the Michigan Responsibility Council, a group that supports medical legalization but opposes recreational adult-use.

For legalization advocates, the opposition is only fueling their fire and giving credence to the power of their voter-supported petition.

"[SAM funding] reinforces to us that the campaign is going to be a very real fight this year," Spokesman Hovey told the Detroit News. "We'll have to work hard to get the truth out there and make sure people have the facts. When the facts are out there, the only choice people will make is yes."

According to a poll conducted last month by Detroit News, nearly 57% of Michigan voters support the Committee to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol's legalization proposal, with only 37% opposed.

If the petition does become a ballot measure and is passed in November, Michigan residents and tourists age 21 and older would be able to possess up to two and a half ounces of weed on their person and up to 10 ounces at home. The measure would also create a retail system for legal weed sales, as well as a 10% excise tax to be put towards funding roads, schools, and local government.

Once certified by the state's election office, the petition will move to the Michigan Board of Canvassers for official approval as a ballot measure. The Board of Canvassers currently has no expected timetable for that confirmation.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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