Michigan voters legalize recreational marijuana

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published November 8, 2018

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The voters have spoken, and with all 83 Michigan counties reporting, unofficial election results indicated overwhelming support for Proposal 1, the legalization of recreational marijuana statewide.

Michigan is slated to be the 10th state to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana for individuals 21 and older. According to unofficial results as of Nov. 8, the proposal had passed in 83 out of 83 counties 55.91 percent to 44.09 percent — 2,339,672 votes to 1,844,880 votes.

Personal possession and home cultivation will become legal for Michigan adults 21 and older 10 days after the election results are certified by the Secretary of State, and then the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will have two years to develop the business licensing regulations and application rules.

The first adult-use marijuana businesses are expected to open to Michigan residents by 2020, according to the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

Each community will decide for itself how it wants to regulate marijuana businesses, with local governments able to cap the number of licenses allowed or ban marijuana businesses altogether.

LARA will ban the use of edibles that appeal to children, require that marijuana products be sold in childproof packages, set potency limits for edibles, and establish package labeling requirements.

Industrial hemp will be legal under state and local law; commercial production and distribution of marijuana will be controlled under a system that licenses, regulates and taxes the businesses involved; individuals will be able to possess or consume no more than 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana and no more than 15 grams of concentrate; and there will be a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sold at the retail level, on top of the state’s 6 percent sales tax.

The proposal will:

• Allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption.

• Impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require that amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers.

• Create a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them.

• Permit retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10 percent tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located.

• Change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.

According to ballot language, 35 percent of the funds generated will go toward K-12 education; 35 percent toward the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges; 15 percent toward local municipalities that allow marijuana-related businesses in their jurisdiction; and 15 percent toward counties that allow marijuana-related businesses within their borders.

On June 5, the legalization initiative was officially placed on the Nov. 6 ballot following a lack of sufficient votes in the Republican-majority Michigan Legislature to pass it immediately, and, on Sept. 6, the State Board of Canvassers approved official ballot language for the recreational marijuana legalization proposal.

“We were cautiously optimistic the entire campaign,” Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Spokesperson Josh Hovey said. “Roughly by early December, (Michigan adults 21 and older) will have the freedom to possess and consume limited amounts of marijuana in the privacy of their own home without fear of arrest.”

Hovey said he expected legalizing marijuana would generate $200 million annually beginning around 2020 and that the initiative is “very specific” in that tax revenue must go toward roads, schools and local governments where marijuana related businesses are allowed to operate.

“This initiative never tried to claim it would fix road funding problems or school funding needs through taxing marijuana, but $200 million is far more than zero dollars,” he said.

He said he suspected the initiative would “end the unnecessary waste of law enforcement resources used to enforce the failed policy of prohibition.”

“We’ve been arresting 20,000 people in this state every year for low-level possession, the vast majority with a quarter of an ounce of marijuana or less,” he said. “This will redirect law enforcement resources away from marijuana possession and into more important issues like violent crime, property theft and the opioid epidemic.”

Hovey added that even with Proposal 1 passing, Michigan residents should remember that public consumption of marijuana and driving under its influence remain strictly illegal, and workers should remember that Proposal 1 does not impact drug-free workplace policies.

Scott Greenlee, president of the anti-legalization group Healthy and Productive Michigan, said in an email that he was disappointed with the results of the Nov. 6 election.

“Our committee will urge and support local communicates who have a desire to opt out and actively explore all legislative, policy and legal options. We will continue to educate Michigan citizens on the harms of marijuana commercialization,” Greenlee said in the email. “I would like to be the first to remind those who voted ‘yes’ of the heavy responsibility that comes with this new policy. … Now is a time for vigilance among citizens — in every community.”

Greenlee did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Staff Writer Nick Mordowanec contributed to this report.