$5 for 3 months. Save 83%.
$5 for 3 months. Save 83%.

Pot legalization push hits roadblock

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Michigan Senate Republicans continue to debate whether to approve a recreational marijuana legalization petition instead of allowing the measure to go to the November ballot, where experts say it could drive Democratic voter turnout.

The strategy could make it easier to change the potential law, eliminating the need for a three-quarters-majority vote required to change a voter-approved law, said Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

“To me, the decision is whether we provide citizens the ability to regulate it or not,” Shirkey said, “because that’s really what it comes down to, citizens regulating it through their elective body.”

Senate Republicans are likely to discuss the strategy behind closed doors Thursday, said a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive.

Action is unlikely without approval from House Speaker Tom Leonard, a DeWitt Republican who does not anticipate support in his caucus but said this month the door is “not completely shut.”

Senate Republicans are considering options to win over reluctant lawmakers, including potential use of some marijuana tax revenue to pay for an income tax cut, but are waiting for signs of hope in the House.

“I think you’d have to check the sanity of the Senate en masse, in aggregate, for us to do something like that without knowing where our partners in the House would end up,” Shirkey said.

The Michigan Constitution gives lawmakers 40 days to act on citizen initiated legislation. Senate Democrats have said they won’t support efforts to keep the measure off the ballot.

(517) 371-3662

Twitter: @jonathanoosting