GOP operatives form Michigan marijuana advocacy group

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Two prominent Oakland County Republican political operatives are behind a new advocacy group that is exploring a 2016 ballot initiative legalizing marijuana use if the Legislature won’t reform the existing medicinal cannabis law.

Suzie Mitchell, a Republican political fundraiser, and GOP consultant Paul Welday have formed the Michigan Responsibility Council with other unidentified members to advocate for a state-regulated distribution of medical marijuana.

Mitchell, who is chairing the group, said they want lawmakers to create a system of “regulation with taxation” of medical marijuana to ensure it is safe and accessible to people in all corners of the state.

She said the existing voter-approved 2008 law is plagued with problems because it never created a uniform system for the cultivation and distribution of marijuana as a medicine, leading to a slew of legal problems.

“What we see now doesn’t work,” said Mitchell of West Bloomfield, who is the wife of Republican pollster and consultant Steve Mitchell. “We really want to see how it can be delivered legally and regulated.”

Welday, a longtime Republican operative, said he’s giving the non-profit education and advocacy group political advice.

Both Mitchell and Welday did not rule out pursuing a 2016 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use or amend the existing medical cannabis law.

“That’s certainly one option,” Welday said. “(But) nothing is concrete at this point.”

Mitchell is a fundraiser for primarily Republican politicians and ballot campaigns, but has worked for Democrats.

The Michigan Responsibility Council was formed after legislation creating a regulated dispensary system for medical marijuana died in the December lame-duck session, Welday said.

Last week, three Republican lawmakers and one Democrat revived those bills, which would legalize an array of medical marijuana products such as edibles and topical creams and license dispensaries of medical marijuana.

But Mitchell and Welday said they have little faith that the new bills will make it to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk this session.

“There’s just not a lot of confidence that this issue is going to be solved in the Legislature,” Welday said.

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