Preemptive Weed Legalization?

By Jeanne E. Murphy posted 05-07-2018 09:12


A proposal slated for the ballot this November would legalize marijuana in Michigan. If the ballot initiative passes, people 21 or older will be allowed to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana and store up to 10 ounces in their homes. An excise tax of 10 percent, in addition to the existing 6 percent sales tax, would be levied on marijuana sales. The tax revenue, after allocation of a portion to a Marijuana Regulation Fund, would be allocated as follows:

  • 35 percent to the school aid fund for K-12 education
  • 35 percent to the state transportation fund for the repair and maintenance of roads and bridges
  • 15 percent to municipalities with a marijuana retail store or microbusiness
  • 15 percent to counties with a marijuana store or a microbusiness

The deadline for opposition groups to challenge the petition has passed with no group stepping forward to protest. The state will take a couple of months to review the voter signatures.

The consensus is that such a proposal would pass comfortably. A recent poll found 61 percent of Michigan voters would vote yes on a ballot proposal to legalize and tax marijuana. Democratic candidates for governor, Gretchen Whitmer and Abdul El-Sayed, both support legalization. Bill Schuette, the early Republican favorite for governor, has remained neutral, saying that legalization is an issue the voters should decide, while other Republican candidates are split on the issue. Democratic attorney general candidate Dana Nessel supports legalization also, stating that she attended her first “Hash Bash” in Ann Arbor as a University of Michigan student in 1988.

But there is a chance that advocates for marijuana legalization will not have to wait until November. Republicans are reportedly concerned that the bump in turnout that recreational marijuana would bring to the election would be bad for the GOP and could affect whether the party holds on to the majority in the legislature. Because of this possibility, there is some indication that the legislature might approve recreational marijuana before the ballot vote. If the legislature does so, it can subsequently amend or repeal the act later by a simple majority. If legalization occurs by way of a ballot initiative, the legislature can repeal it only by a three-fourths supermajority vote in each house.

We will just have to wait for the smoke to clear to find out what will happen.