Michigan on Marijuana: Let Voters Decide the Fate of Legalization

On November 6th, registered voters in Michigan will decide whether or not the Great Lake State will legalize recreational cannabis sales and use.

Michigan state law gives the Legislature 40 days to approve any proposed ballot measure before it comes up for a popular vote, or to come up with a competing proposal.

A law that is passed by the Legislature can be amended by a simple majority vote, but an initiative approved by state voters can only be amended by a two-thirds majority of each chamber of the Legislature. For this reason, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof recommended that the Legislature approve the measure themselves, which would make it easier for lawmakers to later add restrictive measures that could even contradict voters’ wishes.

The state’s Democratic minority was unwilling to allow Republicans to gain the upper hand in amending this legislation, however. “This was an idea perpetuated by a small group of Republican donors who wanted to run the system and that wasn’t something that Democrats were going to support.” Singh also noted that the issue of cannabis reform was likely to bring young, liberal voters out to the polls, which could improve his party’s chances of winning the midterm election.

The state Senate looked to the state House to see if Republicans could drum up the 55 votes necessary to approve the measure, but found that they could not. “The voters are going to have to decide. We’re nowhere in the ballpark.” The House declined to vote on the measure, and the Senate followed their lead. The deadline for acting on the measure has now passed, so the question will now officially be decided by the state’s voters this fall.

Even though there is a chance that voters will decide not to support the measure, many cannabis advocates are still happy that the Legislature did not just legalize pot themselves. “Now any changes that are made should have to be far more bipartisan of a solution.”

Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, also said that his organization approved of the decision to let the issue come up for a popular vote. “So we’re looking forward to the voters of Michigan being able to cast their vote, to codify that it’s the public will to legalize marijuana for responsible adult use.”

The issue will remain unresolved until this fall, but Hovey said that his organization is positive that voters will support the measure.

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