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Lansing — A proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan is headed toward the statewide ballot in November after the Board of State Canvassers on Thursday approved the petition signatures.

The unanimous vote was greeted by clapping in the crowded board room at the Michigan Capitol and cheers from an overflow crowd gathered in the hallway.

Coalition spokesman John Truscott said the initiative will allow voters the chance to toss Michigan’s marijuana laws.

“Just like with alcohol, it is clear that prohibition doesn’t work and that regulation and taxation is a far better solution,” Truscott said in a statement after the board vote.

Scott Greenlee, president of Healthy and Productive Michigan, a committee formed to fight the legalized pot plan, said Thursday the ballot initiative is “fundamentally flawed.”

“States cannot pass laws that violate federal law,” Greenlee said. “It is a basic and fundamental rule of law structure that our country follows.”

The ballot proposal from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol would allow personal possession and use of marijuana by people over 21 but limit personal possession to 2.5 ounces and growth to 12 plants per household. The measure would prohibit marijuana consumption or smoking in a public place or in a private location where the owner forbids it, and it would not override workplace drug policies.

The proposal allows for licensing of businesses that grow, process, test, transport or sell marijuana with three classes of cultivator licenses: Class A licenses would allow for cultivation of up to 100 plants; Class B up to 500 plants; and Class C up to 2,000 plants. Municipalities would be able to prohibit or limit the number and types of facilities within their boundaries.

The plan also would impose a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana retail sales in addition to the state’s 6 percent sales tax.

Contributions to Healthy and Productive Michigan by Smart Approaches to Marijuana of Virginia is the latest sign that outside groups could spend big here when Michigan becomes the epicenter of a national battle over marijuana legalization.

“This was expected, and we’re gearing up for a fight. The Pot Industry has received too much of a free pass — they want to be the next Big Tobacco,” SAM President Kevin Sabet said in a Thursday email.

“We look forward to helping educate folks that legalization is all about greed and puts our kids at risk. This initiative would allow pot edibles, candies, cookies and other kid-friendly items to be sold at neighborhood stores. We’re confident the majority of Michiganders don’t want that.”

Vermont became the ninth state to legalize the drug despite warnings of possible federal enforcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Earlier Thursday, Michigan Senate and House Republicans met behind closed doors to discuss the marijuana initiative and a separate prevailing wage repeal initiative that was not approved by canvassers and is instead headed to court.

The Michigan Constitution gives the Legislature 40 days to consider bills initiated by petition drive, and some Republicans have considered trying to approve the pot legalization proposal rather than allow it to make the ballot this fall.

The strategy could alleviate GOP fears that the pot proposal will boost Democratic voter turnout in November and make it easier to amend the law, but House Speaker Tom Leonard on Thursday all but ruled out that possibility of legislative action.

“At this point, I do not anticipate it happening,” Leonard, R-DeWitt, told reporters. “There is not much support in the caucus. I personally do not support it. So I believe this is something the voters are ultimately going to have to decide.”

Senate Republicans haven’t made any decisions on the marijuana proposal, said a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof of West Olive. But Democrats have signaled they would prefer the measure reach the ballot.

“Trying to play with the rules to circumvent them and create voter suppression is something we’re not going to be a part of,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint. “I trust the voters. Republicans have shown the last seven years they don’t.”

The Michigan Constitution also gives the Legislature the option of rejecting initiated legislation and proposing an alternative, which would send both measures to the ballot and allow voters to pick their favorite.

“Right now, we’re just looking at how the proposal matches up to existing law,” McCann said, referring to medical marijuana regulations approved in 2016 after voters legalized medicinal use in 2008. “We haven’t gotten much further than that. We’re just comparing policy right now.”

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The proposal

The plan allows for licensing of businesses that grow, process, test, transport or sell marijuana with three classes of cultivator licenses: Class A, allows for cultivation of up to 100 plants; Class B, up to 500 plants; and Class C, up to 2,000 plants.

Other provisions include:

Allowing municipalities to ban or limit the number and types of facilities

Imposing a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana retail sales

Prohibiting marijuana consumption or smoking in public or in a private location where the owner forbids it

Source: The Detroit News

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