Michigan: Marijuana legalization may make it on the 2018 ballot

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In 2016, supporters had hoped that the Michigan Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Initiative (Marijuana Legalization Initiative) would be on the November 8 ballot. This did not happen, in large part because of a law that took effect in June of that year, SB 776, that invalidated any signature on a petition seeking to amend the constitution when it was made more than 180 days before the petition was filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

Proponents of marijuana legalization had joined forces with advocates of a fracking ban ballot initiative to make the signature validation process easier, but SB 776 took hold instead. Prior to that bill’s passage, petitioners for Michigan’s Marijuana Legalization Initiative had four years to collect signatures, but those that were more than 180 days old were assumed to be invalid unless petitioners proved validity. Now, all signatures must be collected in that 180 day window.

This year, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol's campaign to get the Michigan Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Initiative on the ballot in 2018 is in full swing. Last week, a press release announced that the Michigan State Board of Canvassers officially approved the coalition’s proposed ballot language, which, in turn, means that the petition drive to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana can now officially begin. In accordance with SB 776, the coalition has 180 days to gather the 252,523 valid signatures it needs. If voters pass the measure, the personal possession, cultivation, and use of limited amounts of cannabis for adults 21 and older, along with the cultivation of industrial hemp, will be legal.

In addition, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative would provide for the following:

  • The licensing of marijuana businesses that cultivate, process, test, transport, and sell marijuana.
  • The protection of consumers by way of proper testing and safety regulations for retail marijuana.
  • A retail taxing mechanism with a ten percent excise tax and six percent sales tax, which will support K-12 public schools, roads, and local governments by way of a Marijuana Regulation Fund.  

The coalition collaborated with other groups, like the Marijuana Policy Project, the ACLU of Michigan, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association, Michigan NORML, MI Legalize, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, and the State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section.

The Marijuana Legalization Initiative would enact a law known as the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, which would impose the above mentioned 10 percent excise tax on all marijuana retailers and microbusinesses for marijuana sold or otherwise transferred to anyone other than a marijuana establishment.

All of the tax revenues collected would be deposited into the fund. Once the initial activities to implement the law are reimbursed back into the general fund, spending priorities are set forth as follows:

  1. Implementation, administration, and enforcement of the act.
  2. Until 2022, or for at least two years, to provide $20 million annually to one or more approved clinical trials to research marijuana’s efficacy in treating the medical conditions of United States armed services veterans and preventing veteran suicide.
  3. Upon appropriation, unexpended balances must be allocated as follows:
    1. 15 percent to municipalities in which a marijuana retail store or a marijuana microbusiness is located, allocated in proportion to the number of marijuana retail stores and marijuana microbusinesses within the municipality.
    2. 15 percent to counties in which a marijuana retail store or a marijuana microbusiness is located, allocated in proportion to the number of marijuana retail stores and marijuana microbusinesses within the county.
    3. 35 percent to the school aid fund to be used for K-12 education.
    4.  35 percent to the Michigan transportation fund to be used for the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges.

Ballotpedia is tracking other states’ potential and certified marijuana ballot initiatives for 2018. So far, that list includes the following:

  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota
  • Washington

Ohio marijuana legalization initiative

This year, Ohio voters may have the chance to weigh in on a ballot initiative by way of the Ohio Medicinal Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Amendment. This would add a new section to the Ohio Constitution legalizing medical marijuana, and allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp.

Grassroots Ohio, the campaign leader, declares that their effort “offers a common-sense approach with an emphasis on access and accommodations for those living with a variety of medical conditions and disabilities; respecting the doctor-patient relationship and understanding the individual nature of illness/disability.” Moreover, they say that their Amendment allows patients and their doctors, not bureaucrats and investors, to make individual health care decisions.

Finally, Grassroots Ohio claims that the Amendment “includes the added bonus of increased opportunity for small Ohio businesses and farms to thrive.”

Texas marijuana legalization initiative

Texas also has a constitutional amendment in the works that could appear on the November 2017 ballot. The Texas Legislature to Legalize Marijuana Amendment would direct the Texas Legislature to legalize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana. Texas law, like that of fifteen other states, requires a supermajority, or two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Texas State Legislature, to refer an amendment to the ballot. There is a companion measure that would direct the legislature to legalize and regulate medical marijuana. 

Washington marijuana legalization initiative

Finally, the state of Washington has three marijuana ballot measures in progress. These include one that would allow the limited home production of cannabis, as well as the possession and transfer of home-produced cannabis for non-commercial purposes. This is similar to the one on the radar in 2018 mentioned above. A second would allow individuals 21 and older to cultivate up to 15 marijuana plants under certain circumstances, and individuals 21 and older to share marijuana.

Washington’s third initiative would prohibit the production, processing, or sale of marijuana in residentially-zoned neighborhoods.

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