Marijuana Legalization Will be In Michigan Voters’ Hands

The will of the people will prevail after Nov. 6, 2018, in the Great Lakes State as Michigan voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

Across the country, passing cannabis legislation has proven to be quite the challenge for state lawmakers, including Michigan, where the Legislature failed to act before a 40-day deadline had passed to vote on the citizen-initiated measure.

All but one of the nine US states that have legalized recreational cannabis have done so via citizens initiative. The ballot box has become the main catalyst for marijuana decriminalization and legalization nationwide. And Michigan will be among the next states to let the voters decide.

The Michigan Marijuana Legalization Initiative, authored by The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA), was submitted to the Secretary of State with an estimated total of 277,370 valid signatures. Once verified, the Republican-controlled legislature had 40 days to adopt and amend the proposed initiative. On Tuesday June 5, 2018, the 40-day deadline for legislative action came and went, but neither motions were made, nor votes cast. As a result, the citizens initiative will get a public vote on the November ballot.

A cannabis measure on the ballot is sure to boost Democratic turnout in November, according to John Hudak, deputy director for the Brookings Institution’s Center for Effective Public Management. As a senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a liberal-to-centrist think tank, Hudak’s research focuses on campaigns and elections, legislative-executive interaction, and state and federal marijuana policy.

“This could possibly explain for the recent push from GOP leadership to adopt and amend the proposed initiative,” said Hudak.

People across the political spectrum support legalization. The issue polls well even among Michigan Republicans.

“We’ve presented a law to the state of Michigan that follows very closely the 2016 Medical Marijuana Licensing law that the legislature passed with bipartisan support, that is currently being implemented now,” said Josh Hovey, communications director for the CRMLA. “One that is very intentionally a small business friendly initiative.”

Republicans have a majority in both the Michigan State Senate and the House of Representatives. But GOP leadership could not corral enough votes to adopt the proposed initiative.

State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Republican running for governor, tweeted Tuesday, June 5, 2018,that he was planning to vote no on recreational marijuana legalization if Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof put it up for a vote in the state Senate.

Meekhof has been the most vocal in his support of adopting and amending the citizens initiative.

“This was not a question of whether or not to support legalized marijuana,” Meekhof told The Associated Press. “Adoption of this petition was a choice to fulfill our obligations as leaders in our communities and control the impact of recreational marijuana on our state.”

Public perception of marijuana is on an upswing statewide. The CRMLA, funded by national advocacy organization Marijuana Policy Project, is prepared to launch a comprehensive campaign to raise support and awareness for the ballot initiative.

“Legalization was going to happen,” Hovey said. He suggested that the debate had moved beyond whether to legalize and, “the only key issue was how to do it and what the rules should be.”

If the ballot initiative prevails in November, it would take the Legislature a three-quarters majority vote to amend the initiative. Bipartisan cooperation would be necessary to make any changes moving forward. That is sure to appease those of whom were wary of potential changes that could have been made by the current GOP majority.

The Michigan State Senate has 38 seats, 27 held by Republicans. The House has 110 seats, with Republicans holding 63 seats.

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