Since the spring of 2015, two groups have been petitioning to place an initiative on the Michigan ballot for the legalization of recreational marijuana. Both the Michigan Cannabis Coalition (MCC) and the Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative Committee, or MILegalize, have been running petitioning campaigns in order to get their respective initiatives placed on the November 2016 ballot. And now, amidst the efforts to put a legalization vote before the people, another campaign is gearing up to actually change the Michigan Constitution in order to repeal prohibition all together. Abrogate Prohibition Michigan has recently announced that their group will start gathering signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot for voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution in order to end prohibition.
Abrogate would undoubtedly be the most aggressive measure in the effort toward legalizing cannabis, as it would completely abolish prohibition. According a recent article about this new effort in fight for legalization that was published in the Detroit Free Press,
“Abrogate Prohibition Michigan must collect roughly 315,000 valid voter signatures to qualify the constitutional amendment for the November 2016 statewide ballot.
The petition, whose form was OK’d Tuesday, would fully legalize the use of the cannabis plant in Michigan, allowing for recreational, medicinal, agricultural and other uses. It would not allow marijuana taxes or any regulation to diminish use.”
This step would take cannabis legalization one step further than what the other ballot initiatives are working toward. While both the MCC and the MILegalize proposals would effectively legalize cannabis for adults over 21 years old, there would still be many regulations in place, and the Michigan legislature will still have the ability to complicate whatever decision the voters make, and add new layers of arbitrary legislation upon whatever the people vote to initiate.
As for the legalization initiatives, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition proposal would be the most restrictive, should voters choose to enact this legislation into state law. The short title of the act would be the Michigan Cannabis Control and Revenue Act, and even though it would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over, and allow for the cultivation of only two flowering plants for personal use, the real control would be placed in the hands of state legislators. This act would also create a “Michigan Cannabis Control Board” to oversee the licensing and regulation of commercial cannabis operations, three of which “shall be appointed by the governor, one by the speaker of the House and one by the Senate majority leader,” according to the official language.
MILegalize is the more promising of the two legalization initiatives that voters may see on the November ballot this year. It has been described as the “craft beer” approach to legalization, and not only allows for individuals to grow up to twelve plants for personal use, but also leaves the regulating authority in the hands of local municipalities. In an assessment of the campaing performed by MLive.com in July of last year, it is noted that,
“In addition to setting up their own licensing and rule structure for marijuana establishments, local municipalities could establish an ordinance to prohibit them altogether. However, if a municipality does not allow marijuana establishments by June of 2017, local voters would have the option to decide the issue in a general election.”
Although neither of the the two legalization ballot initiatives would alter the current medical marijuana law, they each have their own very unique approach to the legalization and regulation of cannabis for recreational use. Clearly, MILegalize puts much more of the power in the hands of citizens and local governments, but some would say that they both miss the mark when it comes to providing full decriminalization. That is one of key differences between the MCC and MILegalize initiatives and the Abrogate Prohibition Michigan campaign, which would put an amendment to the Michigan constitution before the people to vote on.
It is clear that Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) has had plenty of issues since its inception, with much back and forth on dispensaries, taxes, rules, and regulations. According to a recent article from Michigan Radio about new proposal for a new distribution system,
“The legislation is stalled in committee after heavy opposition from caregivers and patient groups. They worry the regulations would be overly burdensome, are designed to generate profits for middle men, and would drive up costs. In addition, many criticize new taxes on medical marijuana sales proposed under the bills. They say cannabis could become unaffordable for many patients if the proposals are signed into law.”
If we’ve learned anything from the Michigan MMP, it is that cannabis legislation leads to more legislation, and more rules and regulation. And while the legislation proposals for legalization would provide business opportunities and taxes for the State of Michigan, it’s quite unclear how the legal system and law enforcement will respond. If cannabis is regulated like alcohol, then it will primarily be treated as such. Whereas, if voters decriminalize completely and prohibition is effectively repealed, the people will be more free to decide how to approach the other aspects of its use, distribution, and regulation. There will still probably be some issues with the courts and police, especially until the Federal government decriminalizes cannabis. But some day soon we will free the weed, one way or another, we will continue to fight every step of the way.