Just like many other states in our country, marijuana activists in Michigan are working hard to get legalization on the November 2016 ballot. Volunteers with MiLegalize, a campaign put together by the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law reform Committee (MCCLRC), started collecting signatures in June. They need approximately 250,000 valid signatures to get the initiative on the ballot and they only have until Christmas to do it.
Cannabis advocates are motivated to see a bit more flexibility from the current medical marijuana law enacted in 2008. Within the last several weeks, law enforcement officials in Michigan have spent a lot of time and money raiding medical marijuana dispensaries, grow facilities and caregiver homes. Sources say drug enforcement teams have gone through great lengths to be a thorn in the side of those who grow or distribute marijuana. Officials have access to the state’s list of caregivers and frequently check up on them, making sure they are following the medical marijuana law. If you are one plant over your count or make a minor health code violation, chances are you’re in trouble.
Oakland County resident and marijuana caregiver Aaron Waite says officers checked up on his grow facility recently, using a helicopter and a ground crew of at least eight officers. The “compliancy check” cost the state thousands of dollars in Michigan tax money and officers only found one “illegal” marijuana plant. Cannabis activists say they want to put an end to this type of bullying, warrantless searches and invasions of privacy by law enforcement officials as soon as possible.
What Michigan Needs
MiLegalize member petitioning
Obviously, signatures are important to get the initiative on the ballot; however, money is even higher on the MiLegalize priority list right now. So far, the campaign has raised over $200,000, but says it will need four times that amount in order to even make the ballot.
More money would allow the group to be able to pay more petitioners to collect signatures. It would also help them market and advertise the campaign more effectively.
Possessing & Manufacturing Cannabis
If passed, anyone over the age of 21 would be allowed to purchase, possess or use marijuana without fear of prosecution statewide or locally. Cannabis edibles and concentrates would also be legal; both products are not currently protected by the existing medical marijuana law, therefore making them illegal. A person would be able to possess or transfer up to 2.5 ounces and grow up to 12 plants.
The MiLegalize initiative would allow any city, township, village or federally recognized tribe to license any number and size of facilities for cultivation, processing or retail sale. Local governments would also be responsible for establishing licensing rules, security requirements, efforts to prevent sales to minor, health standards and advertising rules; they could also establish an ordinance to prohibit them altogether. If a municipality does not allow marijuana establishments by June 2017, local voters would have the option to put the issue before local voters in a general election.
Marijuana sold to consumers would have to be in child resistant packaging with proper labeling, including warnings against driving while using the product. The packaging would also have to specify that the product was tested; ingestible products would have to indicate the amount of active drug per serving and an FDA nutrition fact panel. You wouldn’t have to live in Michigan to invest or own a cannabusiness in Michigan.
Let’s talk taxes
If legalized, there would be a 10% tax in addition to the existing 6% sales tax. 40% of the excise tax would go to education, another 40% would go to transportation and the final 20% would go to the local licensing jurisdiction. The state Legislature could reduce the tax but cannot increase it.
The MiLegalize proposal would also provide additional protections for medical marijuana patients and it would legalize production of industrial hemp, which can be used for fuel and textiles. This would be an incredible resource for Michigan, as one acre of hemp can equal up to four acres of trees. Not to mention, a hemp harvest is four months compared to the decades it takes trees to grow.
What this means for Michigan
Because the population of Michigan is almost double the population of Colorado, the revenue potential behind cannabis legalization is promising. If legalized, Michigan could see a big economic boom similar to what Colorado and Washington have seen the last two years. The state would see more revenue for roads and schools and tens of thousands of jobs would be created as well.
As exciting as this can be for marijuana advocates in Michigan, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to get legalization on the ballot. Without money, the group can’t get signatures and without signatures, it can’t get on the ballot.
You have to be a registered Michigan voter to sign the petition. Petition hub locations can be found at milegalize.com. Donations for the MiLegalize campaign can also be made online via PayPal or checks can be made payable to MiLegalize, 440 W. Troy Ave., Ferndale MI 48220.
photo credit: MI Legalize Facebook