Last fall, activists in Michigan came so close to putting a marijuana legalization initiative on the ballots – only to have a last minute revision to the petitioning process cost them over a hundred thousand signatures that they had collected. Luckily voters in the state haven’t given up hope yet as a new ballot initiative is being drafted for the 2018 election, and if approved for the signature gathering process, they will have 180 days to gather the signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot.
The current draft of the initiative would allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis or 15 grams of concentrates, which is actually a little higher than most states which only allow possession of up to an ounce outside the home. For those looking to grow their own cannabis for personal use, home growing will be limited to 12 plants per person – and there are no specifics when it comes to a maximum number of plants allowed in a single household.
When it comes to licensed businesses and the potential of a commercial industry, the initiative gets rather specific, allowing licenses for retailers, testing facilities, transporters, processors and microbusinesses. It also creates three different classes of cultivation licenses – a Class A license would allow for cultivation of up to 100 plants, Class B would allow for up to 500 plants, and Class C would authorize the growth of up to 2,000 plants. It also specifies that cultivation would be taxed at $20 per dry-weight ounce of cannabis, and $6.75 per dry-weight ounce of leaves.
Along with the licenses that the potential law would create, it also has a clear path for those with prior marijuana related convictions to have their records expunged – which is important for so many people after years of prohibition which has lead to unnecessary arrests and incarcerations that contribute to lifelong issues with things such as obtaining gainful employment, proper housing and even access to certain government programs including scholarships. If this initiative were to be passed by voters, then those with records could have them cleared as though the new law had been in place all along.
The initiative also covers where the tax revenue made by the commercial industry will be both stored and spent. It will create the Marihuana Regulation Fund in the state Treasury where all the tax revenue will remain until dispersed to cover the governing of the industry for the first few years (until 2020) – at which point at least $20 million would go to an FDA approved medical marijuana study on the potential of using cannabis to treat U.S. veterans for various medical conditions (likely starting with PTSD). Any leftover funds would go to counties and municipalities that choose to participate in the cannabis industry, as well as community colleges.
Getting a head start on putting a ballot initiative on next year’s ballot is a great idea – it gives them plenty of time to start getting the word out and making revisions to the drafted initiative as necessary until they are confident that the majority of voters will pass it. Then comes the hard part – gathering the needed amount of signatures in less than 180 days. Hopefully the goal for the Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is to educate and inform voters first, use this time to get the word out and fundraise, then use that awareness and funding to collect all the needed signatures as quickly as possible so the initiative doesn’t end up sitting out the next election on a technicality like last time.