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Michigan voters will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana

marijuana bud
Michigan voters will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana this November.

The Michigan Board of Canvassers approved a petition Thursday to place an initiative on the state’s November ballot that would legalize marijuana possession and consumption for all adults 21 years and older.

The board ruled that the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol collected 277,370 valid signatures, more than the 252,523 signatures needed to make the ballot.

If approved by voters, the measure would legalize marijuana as well as license marijuana businesses; impose a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sold at the retail level on top of the state’s 6 percent sales tax; mandate proper testing and safety regulations for retail marijuana; and allow local governments to decide whether marijuana businesses can operate in their community.

“With polls showing nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters supporting legalization, it’s clear that the public is way ahead of the politicians on this issue,” said Jeffrey Hank, executive director of MI Legalize. “The people are tired of the failed policies of the past and understand that creating reasonable, responsible regulations is the way forward to tens of thousands of new jobs and opportunities in Michigan."

The state Legislature does have 40 days to adopt the initiative, which would stop it form going on the ballot. But House Speaker Tom Leonard said Thursday afternoon that's unlikely.

“At this point, I do not anticipate it happening," he says. "There is not much support it in the caucus. I do not personally support it, so I think this something that ultimately voters are going to have to decide.”

A group opposed to legalizing marijuana may still file a court challenge. Scott Greenlee is with the group Healthy and Productive Michigan.

He says, “There’s no two ways about. Marijuana is not legal due to the Controlled Substances Act, federal government. Any state doesn’t have the right to overturn that, so it’s fundamentally flawed in and of itself.”

That has not kept 30 states and Washington D.C. from allowing recreational use of marijuana.

If voters approve the proposal in November, Michigan would be the first Midwestern state to pass recreational marijuana laws.

This post was updated Thursday, April 26 at 3:14 p.m.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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