Michigan Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Release Marijuana Prisoners

Michigan lawmakers are trying to adjust the state’s criminal justice system.
Michigan Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Release Marijuana Prisoners

Democratic lawmakers in Michigan have introduced a bill that would release from prison offenders convicted of committing certain marijuana crimes. The measure, House Bill 6508, would also reduce the prison sentences for other cannabis-related offenses.

If enacted, the bill would “provide for the release of prisoners convicted of certain offenses from imprisonment; to provide for the process by which a prisoner may seek relief; and to provide for the powers and duties of certain state and local governmental officers and entities,” according to the text of the measure.

The measure would require those currently incarcerated to petition the state parole board to determine if they are eligible for release. If the parole board determines that a petitioner is serving a sentence “based on the use, possession, or distribution of marihuana that has been entirely decriminalized, the parole board must order the petitioner to be immediately released from incarceration.”

If the parole board denies a petition submitted by a prisoner for relief under the act, the decision may be appealed to the director of the department of corrections.

The bill was introduced on Nov. 27 in the Michigan House of Representatives and was introduced by state representatives Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit; Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores; Robert Wittenberg, D-Oak Park; Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti; Tom Cochran, D-Mason; Tenisha Yancey, D-Harper Woods; Mary Rose Robinson, D-Detroit; Leslie Love, D-Detroit; and Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint.

Several Cannabis Bills Pending

The bill is one of several cannabis-related bills introduced during Michigan’s current lame-duck legislative session.

Another measure, Senate Bill 1200, would amend Public Act 213 of 1965 to allow those convicted of multiple violations for possession of a controlled substance to apply to have their records cleared of those offenses. The bill was introduced on November 27 by senators Steven Bieda, D-Warren; Ian Conyers, D-Detroit; Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, and Coleman Young II, D-Detroit.

Also last week, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof introduced a bill that would strip Proposal 1, the state’s recreational cannabis legalization initiative that was passed by voters in last month’s midterm elections, of a provision that would allow the home cultivation of up to 12 cannabis plants. At the time, Meekhof said that he did not want to see Michigan’s neighborhoods flooded with pot from home grows.

“People don’t get to make alcohol and serve it in unregulated bars to anyone they want to. Homegrown marijuana is basically unregulated,” Meekhof said. “It should be in some regulated form, so we have consistency and safety. It’s a mind-altering substance like alcohol. It should be somehow controlled.”

Another bill introduced by Meekhof would reduce the marijuana tax rate in Proposal 1 from 10 percent to 3 percent and eliminate requirements that revenue from cannabis taxes be spent on schools and roads.

Josh Hovey, the spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group behind Proposal 1, said that Meekhof’s bills would be contrary to voters’ wishes.

“The people in Michigan have already spoken and passed our initiative with more votes than Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer got,” Hovey said. “For lawmakers to immediately go against the will of the people is undemocratic and it totally disregards the political process.”

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