Group vows continued fight against Proposal 1 on local, legal, legislative fronts

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
The group who opposed the ballot proposal in the lead up to Tuesday’s election, Healthy and Productive Michigan, said Wednesday it intends to continue fighting the full implementation of the law through legal, legislative and local means.

Lansing — Although Proposal 1 passed with nearly 56 percent of the vote Tuesday, the battle to legalize marijuana in Michigan might not be finished.

The group that opposed the ballot proposal, Healthy and Productive Michigan, said Wednesday it intends to continue fighting the full implementation of the law through legal, legislative and local means.

“We realize we lost the battle, but we don’t think we have lost the war by any means. We are exploring all avenues,” said Kevin Sabet, president of the national group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which helped fund Healthy and Productive Michigan.

But the people of Michigan approved the proposal and “have resoundingly confirmed their support for legalizing and regulating marijuana,“ said Josh Hovey, a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol.

"Legislators should think twice about any attempts to roll back this initiative."

The proposal allows adults over the age of 21 to carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants for personal use. The provisions are expected to take effect in early December, while the regulated, commercial side of the proposal could take more than a year.

Read: Whitmer will consider forgiving marijuana crimes

State officials have not been as reluctant to accept the results of Tuesday's vote on Proposal 1. 

“It’s time to move forward” in implementing each of the three proposals passed Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder said in a Wednesday statement. He directed state officials to begin implementation and ensure “proper regulatory frameworks.”

Healthy and Productive Michigan said Wednesday its main form of opposition would be assisting communities that want to opt out of opening their towns to commercial sales.

After the race was called early Wednesday morning, 20 to 25 communities reached out to the group asking about ways to opt out of the commercial aspect, said Scott Greenlee, president of Healthy and Productive Michigan. He would not disclose which communities those were.

“We know challenges are coming there, and that’s one of the first things we’ll address with these municipalities,” Greenlee said.

"Our friends in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, I've talked to officials from each state and they're scared to death," he said. "They were rooting for us to vote this down, and they think it'll cost them significant problems as people cross state borders, not to mention the problems we'll have at international borders."

The group is exploring legal means to stop some aspects of the provision, which they said violates federal law and creates public health and safety concerns. The group has said it is not opposed to those aspects of the proposal that decriminalize marijuana possession.

Sabet, a former three-time White House Office of National Drug Control Policy advisor, compared Michigan to Colorado, which was the first to pass recreational use in 2014, saying marijuana production arrests have increased.

"People are getting more entrapped in the legal system because they think it’s a free-for-all there when, in reality, there is supposed to be regulation and rules around it," Sabet said.

Sabet said the pro-pot community misled voters by saying it would decriminalize possession and make drug tests easier.

"I think a lot of people voted for this thinking it was a get out of jail free card, and it is not," he said. "We have to really think that this will be accelerating in different ways into the criminal justice system.”

Lastly, the group is considering whether to lobby the Legislature to block full implementation, including nixing provisions that would allow for unlimited THC or items like marijuana gummy bears.

Dr. Carla Mitchell spoke on behalf of the Wayne Mental Health Authority Providers Network Wednesday, saying their work with Changing Lives and Staying Sober and maintaining a safe community will not change. 

"Those of us that are in the trenches, doing prevention work in our community, we are not seeing this as a defeat," she said. "We are prepared to continue our work of prevention and become a safety net for those who are disproportionally affected and to continue to educate."

The proposal bans items like those described by Healthy and Productive Michigan and “gives the state broad authority to cap THC levels,” Hovey said.

Healthy and Productive Michigan said Tuesday night that it was outspent and outgunned by out-of-state money that targeted Michigan as an inroad to the Midwest.

But Sabet said opponents are optimistic they’ll be able to afford their ongoing efforts, as they are likely to be less expensive than advertising in a midterm election.

Even before the Associated Press had confirmed the passage of Proposal 1, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Shelly Edgerton said the agency was ready to take on the responsibility for implementing the act.

Our licensing and regulatory infrastructure for medical marijuana can be scaled up to incorporate the oversight of adult-use marijuana,” Edgerton said. The department is prepared to offer more details on the newly legal use and industry after the election results have been certified.

Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday she will pursue the release of inmates and expungement of criminal records for some convicted of marijuana crimes.

(517) 371-3661