A group backed by the Marijuana Policy Project has announced that new initiative language is being drafted for an attempt to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan in 2018. A national advocacy organization, the MPP has been the force behind legalization measures in places like Colorado, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.
“It’s clear that a strong majority of Michigan voters think it’s time to end prohibition,” said MPP spokesman Mason Tvert. “I believe it’s a trend we’re seeing in states nationwide. More and more voters are wanting to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy. They see it working in other states.”
But local activists who were involved in the “MI Legalize” attempt at marijuana reform in the state in 2016 have raised objections to some of the provisions in the MPP proposal. That group’s attempt came to an end last year after many of their ballot signatures were invalidated for being gathered outside the timeframe allowed by Michigan law.
Calling some provisions in the MPP – the “coalition to regulate marijuana like alcohol” – group’s language “very protectionist” and “somewhat monopolistic,” activist, attorney and part of the MI Legalize team, Matthew Abel, said he is worried that some of the state licensing requirements contained in the language could give distributors a lot of power as the sole entities allowed to deliver legal cannabis to dispensaries from growers.
“We’d like nothing more than to come together on this … but not at the expense of the state of Michigan and not to benefit big money interests,” Abel said. “As I’ve said before, Republicans don’t want marijuana legal until they can sell it to us.”
These issues show just what a delicate balancing act marijuana law reform has become in various states. Groups like MPP bring the money and expertise to qualify and pass ballot measures, and their initiatives tend to propose more regulations than would seem necessary in an attempt to gain broad support for the measure. On the flip side, local activists would like to see less regulation and more opportunities for those who have spent years fighting for legalization on the ground in the state, but may not have the capital to be players under the new legalization regime.
As of right now there is still plenty of time for the two camps to come together and present a united front in 2018. As we have seen in several other states, money alone is not enough to successfully legalize marijuana and neither is local activist support; both must work together to pass something that will be an improvement over prohibition.