Reports have confirmed that a state agency in Michigan has decided to include adult-use cannabis on the November ballot at a meeting today. The State Board of Canvassers, a body that helps oversee elections in Michigan, determined that a petition drive to legalize recreational cannabis was successful.
Earlier this week, the Bureau of Elections reported that cannabis activists had turned in enough petition signatures to put a legalization measure on the ballot. The State Board of Canvassers has now voted to approve that decision.
Proponents of the legalization of recreational marijuana turned in more than 365,000 signatures of registered voters. They needed to collect just over 250,000 to qualify the measure for this year’s election in November.
Josh Hovey is a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, an advocacy group behind the petition drive. He told local media that a favorable decision by the board is one step in the journey to legal pot.
“This is something we’ve been waiting on for a long time. Assuming the Board of Canvassers approves our petition, it’s one milestone. But the ultimate one is in November and that’s what we’re focusing on,” Hovey said.
If successful, the proposed ballot measure would legalize the possession and sale of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis. The state would then impose a tax on marijuana sales of 10 percent, plus the normal six percent sales tax.
Revenue from those taxes could total as much as $100 million per year. The state would spend the money on roads and public education. Cities and counties that allow commercial cannabis businesses would also get a cut.
Will Politics Come Into Play?
Now that the state board has certified the signatures collected in the petition drive, the issue will be taken up by the legislature. Lawmakers could decide to pass their own legalization bill, which would then keep the issue off of the ballot.
Some analysts believe that might be a good idea for the majority Republican Michigan legislature. Research has shown that marijuana initiatives increase voter turnout. And high turnout at election time is usually a good omen for Democratic candidates.
So by legalizing cannabis themselves, the legislature could avoid attracting those extra voters to the polls. That could help protect the majority in an election year that’s already looking dangerous for Republicans.
Political consultant Dennis Darnoi believes it’s a strategy the Michigan GOP should consider.
“I think it’s one of the issues that will drive turnout,” he said. “And in competitive state House seats, an extra 50 to 100 votes could swing an election.”
Lawmakers in the House might have a chance of passing a cannabis legalization measure. But success in the Senate appears to be a long shot, according to Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican from Grand Ledge.
“There is absolutely no chance that the Senate will take up marijuana legalization for recreational use,” he said. “I’m opposed to it and I think the vast majority of the caucus is opposed. We’ll just leave it up to the voters.”