For Michigan, it’s been the people versus the politicians when it comes to medical marijuana and the debate on legalization. Since the medical marijuana law passed in 2008, confusion and frustration have reigned as patients and law enforcement struggled to navigate through the gray areas of the law. Just as these issues began to smooth over and the push for legalization was in full swing for the 2016 elections, the groups petitioning had the rug pulled out from under them by the governor. Now, Michiganders are anxiously preparing for the next round of elections, optimistic that this time Michigan will be able to add itself to the list of states that have ended prohibition.
What Went Wrong In 2016
Things were looking up for MI Legalize (the people’s movement for legalizing cannabis) as far as having enough signatures to get cannabis legalization on the ballot. Having collected and turned in over 350,000 signatures, they had enough to qualify their proposal for the ballot. However, they were thrown a curveball when Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill into law, announcing that petition drives must take place during a 180 day window. He stated that the time frame would assure that the issues making it on the ballot would be the ones that matter most to the people of Michigan. This arguably unconstitutional move left them over 100,000 signatures short as they were obtained outside the newly instated legal period to collect them. This was a huge blow to supporters.
MI Legalize has since petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear their case after being denied the opportunity to go in front of the Michigan Supreme Court. They are one of two groups whose petitions were affected by Governor Snyder’s new law. The other group was collecting signatures to stop fracking and they moved to sue immediately after the governor’s announcement, citing it as unconstitutional. For MI Legalize, the issues that they hope are brought to light are mentioned here:
“The case raises First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection violations due to the gross injustices perpetrated by the Secretary of State, Board of Canvassers, and Bureau of Elections in refusing to process MI Legalize’s 354,000 signatures submitted for the 2016 election,” the press release added.
The Plans For 2017
Even though they’ve filed a federal lawsuit, MI Legalize is pushing ahead with its efforts to see cannabis legalized in 2018. After heavy consideration, MI Legalize has endorsed the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Initially at odds over concerns that the coalition’s proposal for 2018 was in the best interest of big business instead of the free market, Jeff Hank, chairman of MI Legalize, said they will support the proposal after having negotiated some of the terms.
More good news is that the Marijuana Policy Project – the group who aided in successful legalization campaigns in Colorado and Alaska – announced plans to form an advisory committee in Michigan. They will work with the different individuals and businesses involved in the movement to help draft a proposal. With everything coming together rather seamlessly at this point, former state Rep. Jeff Irwin is anxious to see the end of prohibition in Michigan. He explained,
“The core of it has been the very same from the beginning: End the 20,000 arrests, allow people to use and possess marijuana and take our huge wasted effort to try and accomplish prohibition and convert that into an investment in prosperity and a better state,”
“That’s the kernel for this idea, and none of that is changing.”
This is not to say that efforts won’t be met with resistance. The new U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, does not support the movement to legalize cannabis. There is also a national advocacy group based in California, Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, that believe cannabis is a dangerous drug and oppose its legalization as well. Despite whatever unforeseen hurdles they may throw in the way of cannabis legalization in Michigan, the numbers speak for themselves: in a recent poll, 57% of people stated they support marijuana legalization.
With the warmer summer months approaching, the Coalition To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is preparing to seek approval to circulate petitions. An expensive project, petition drives in Michigan cost upwards of $1 million. With contributions coming in from business owners, MI Legalize, and The Marijuana Policy Project, they are well on their way to being ready for an eager pursuit of signatures. With 252,523 valid signatures needed in a 180 day period, the push to acquire them will have to be more vigorous than ever before.
What Legalization Could Mean For Michigan
The potential for job creation would be a huge bolster for the Michigan economy. The tax revenue alone would provide possible solutions to some of the states’ immediate issues such as the extremely poor condition of the roads and funds for education and the police force. The people of Michigan who support cannabis legalization continue to forge ahead despite the setbacks. Confident that they will soon join the likes of Colorado in the progressive steps towards a healthy economy, they’re ready to send the message to the federal government that the end of prohibition is very near.