Column: Michigan deserves pot clarity

Jeff Yaroch

It is time for the federal government to stop sending mixed signals on marijuana.

In 2008, a citizens-initiated ballot proposal passed in Michigan which allowed for medical use of marijuana, and this year, the state of Michigan will start to issue licenses for medical marijuana operations. But, while Michigan is one of 29 states who have passed laws allowing marijuana use in some form, it remains illegal under federal law.

This has created a very real conflict between the state and federal government. In the 10 years since Michigan voters approved the medical marijuana ballot proposal, the direction we have received from Washington, D.C., has been inconsistent, at best. Congress has restricted funding for enforcement in states that have legalized marijuana, yet federal regulators tell banks and credit unions they cannot do financial services with these operations. Most recently, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has given discretion to local federal prosecutors as to whether to enforce marijuana laws in states like ours. This uncertainty has caused great confusion in Michigan as the Legislature tries to follow the will of the people, while knowing that our approved legislation violates federal law. Specifically, this conflict between Michigan and federal law has created problems related to law enforcement, property zoning, banking and taxation.

It is not for the attorney general under any president to decide whether marijuana will be legal and where to enforce the law (or ignore it); it is Congress’s duty under the U.S. Constitution to decide what the law will be when it comes to marijuana. And the time is now for Congress to make a simple decision: either stand by the current law banning marijuana or respect states’ rights by granting a waiver from Schedule One classification of marijuana to states that have created their own regulatory system.

For me, this is not about being for or against marijuana. I’m simply seeking a long overdue clarification on federal law and how it affects Michigan. I submitted House Concurrent Resolution 11 in June 2017, which calls on Congress to clarify what its position is on marijuana. This resolution has been approved by the House Law and Justice Committee, was approved this week by full state House of Representatives and now advances to the Senate. When approved, this resolution would be sent to the Michigan congressional delegation, the president of the U.S. Senate and the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Michigan needs a definitive answer to the marijuana issue now more than ever, as a citizen’s initiative is in the works here in Michigan to put recreational marijuana on the ballot this year. For the sake of our law enforcement, along with our local governments that are stuck between a rock and a hard place, it is time for Congress to take its head out of the sand and make a decision.

State Rep. Jeff Yaroch, R-Richmond, represents Michigan’s 33rd House district.