State board confirms ballot language for marijuana legalization

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published September 17, 2018

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LANSING — On Sept. 6, the State Board of Canvassers approved official ballot language for the recreational marijuana legalization proposal.

Known officially as Proposal 1, language was limited by law to 100 words to indicate to voters the ramifications of the proposal and how both individuals and the state would be affected if successful.

The language states: “A proposed initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers.”

This proposal would:

• 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 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.

On June 5, the legalization initiative was officially approved to appear on the November ballot.

Josh Hovey, communications director for the pro-marijuana Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol — the group that collected about 365,000 signatures to appear on the ballot in the first place — said that the state never has an easy job “taking a full law and boiling it down to 100 words.”

“They had that heavy lift in front of them,” Hovey said. “I think what they came up with is fairly neutral language summarizing the key tenets of what we’re proposing.”

That is, he said, the stopping of unnecessary criminal arrests and employing a taxed system available to benefit individuals 21 and older, as well as local governments and the state as a whole.

He added that “more strong regulations” could have been listed as part of the proposal, including the fact that businesses will still have the authority to drug test their employees; that outdoor consumption, in places like city streets and public parks, is outlawed; and that driving under the influence would remain illegal.

Also, it means the state has the authority to ensure that businesses do not market marijuana-related products toward children.

“That just means we’ll have to get out and do more to educate the public on what is and is not in (the) proposal,” he said.

Scott Greenlee, president of the anti-legalization group Healthy and Productive Michigan, agreed with Hovey and said the state has a difficult task boiling down an approximate 6,500-word proposal into 100 words, adding, “It leaves so much ambiguity.”

Much discussion of this proposal has centered on how money would be allocated to schools, roads and municipalities — similar to successful proposals that have passed in states such as Colorado. While Hovey admits that the ballot language does not break down allocations, he said it does state that net proceeds would go toward those three areas.

“That’s a key piece of the proposal,” Hovey said. “It also makes clear that the first dollars go to implement the law. That’s important because it shows it will pay for itself. It’s funded through the collection of tax dollars, not costing (the) state extra money.”

Greenlee, however, said there should have been more detail on tax allocation, calling it a “favorable estimate” for proponents of this proposal. He said law enforcement and administration costs are not mentioned, and that $200 million levied from a successful vote would only be just a small percentage of the statewide budget.

He added that the 10 percent tax would be the lowest of any states that have legalized recreational marijuana, while the 2.5 ounce limit would be the largest amount for possession. He said the black market won’t go away, noting that drug cartels could irreparably change the state scene.

“Overnight, Michigan will become the marijuana capital in America and you won’t want to know who your neighbors are,” Greenlee said.

With the election less than two months away, Hovey and his coalition are speaking at statewide events and incorporating a “very strategic and robust” campaign to make sure voters are educated on the proposal’s ins and outs.

“We’re feeling very confident,” Hovey said. “Most polls show that roughly 60 percent of voters think prohibition is a failure and they support taxation and regulation. … I think we’re at a very good starting point.”

Greenlee said other polls — which he admitted are not always trustworthy, mentioning the 2016 presidential election — have the proposal failing. He thinks the average as of now is “probably 50-50.”

“Some are seeing perceived benefits and some are seeing problems. … I know people who are marijuana users who think that marijuana should be legal, yet they are not voting for this proposal because they think it’s inherently flawed,” Greenlee said.