Michigan voters will decide in November if marijuana for adult use should be legalized. Both the State Senate and House of Representatives adjourned today without taking up a pending medical marijuana initiative. The State Board of Canvassers decided in April that activists had turned in enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot. Lawmakers had a 40-day deadline to take up the issue. That deadline passed today without action from either legislative body.
Lawmakers had three options. They could pass the initiative with the option to amend it later; write another proposal to compete with the initiative; or do nothing. They chose the third option, meaning the initiative will be on the November ballot.
Political Parties Differ On Strategy
Some Republicans wanted to pass a legalization bill to keep the initiative off November’s ballot. They saw passing a bill as an opportunity to lessen voter turnout. Progressive ballot propositions like cannabis legalization efforts tend to encourage voters to come to the polls. Consequently, conservative issues and candidates have a smaller chance of success.
Republican Political consultant Dennis Darnoi thought the bill idea was a viable strategy. He told reporters that more voters at the polls could make a difference in some races.
“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.”
Party strategists decided to let lawmakers in the House see if they could pass a bill first. However, Republican Speaker of the House Tom Leonard told local media on Tuesday that he did not have the votes to pass the bill.
“There’s simply not support in the chamber to pass this right now. The voters are going to have to decide,” said Leonard. “We’re nowhere in the ballpark.”
Democrats wanted to let voters decide on the initiative. House Minority Sam Singh said that his colleagues did not want to give Republicans a chance to rewrite the legislation.
“This is a decision that should go to the voters. This was an idea perpetuated by a small group of Republican donors who wanted to run the system and that wasn’t something that Democrats were going to support,” said Singh.
Advocates Put Their Trust In Voters
Activists with the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, supporters of the initiative, welcomed the news. Josh Hovey is a spokesman with the group. He believes that the legalization drive will be successful at the ballot box.
“We are confident Michigan voters understand that marijuana prohibition has been an absolute disaster and that they will agree that taxing and regulating marijuana is a far better solution,” Hovey said. “Multiple polls show that roughly 60 percent of Michigan voters want to see marijuana legalized and regulated.”
Possession, Use, and Sales Would Be Legal
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.
Analysts believe that 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.