Pot group to turn in 360K signatures for Mich. proposal

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — A group seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan has cleared a fund-raising hurdle and is preparing to submit roughly 360,000 signatures to the state for a potential 2018 ballot proposal.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol plans to file petitions Monday.

“We have been working hard all summer to collect the more than 250,000 signatures needed to ask voters to approve ending cannabis prohibition in Michigan, and on Monday that phase of the campaign will be complete,” spokesman Josh Hovey said in a statement.

The ballot committee has paid off the $30,000 in debt it owed to National Petition Management, paving the way for the firm to release the final batch of signatures collected by paid circulators. As The Detroit News reported Tuesday, the fund-raising shortfall delayed plans to submit signatures this week.

The National Cannabis Industry Association has joined the coalition and is contributing to the effort, organizers said Thursday. The trade association represents companies involved in the legal marijuana industry. Voters in eight states have approved legalization measures.

“We’ve been getting online donations and others, but them stepping up has really pushed us over the edge,” Hovey told The News.

Michigan is the country’s second largest medical marijuana market and full legalization could spur job and economic growth, NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith said in a statement.

The Michigan initiative “combines some of the best practices and regulations from around the country and we are excited to take part in supporting this effort,” Smith said.

The coalition needs at least 250,288 valid signatures to advance the measure toward the 2018 ballot. The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office will review the group’s submission, which will require certification by the Board of State Canvassers.

If certified, the Michigan Legislature would have 40 session days to approve or reject the measure. If legislators do nothing, it would go to the November 2018 general election ballot. If they propose an alternative, both measures would go before voters.

While some law enforcement officials have raised concerns with the marijuana proposal, it has not yet faced any significant organized opposition. A group called the Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools had raised $5,000 through Oct. 20, according to state records.

The pot proposal would regulate and tax commercial marijuana production and retail sales in Michigan.

Residents could generally carry up to 2.5 ounces of the drug or possess up to 10 ounces in their homes. Smoking would not be allowed on public sidewalks. Local communities could decide whether they want to allow marijuana businesses.