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Up in smoke: The hazy politics of pot in Michigan

It's Just Politics: May 4th, 2012
It's Just Politics: May 4th, 2012

In this week's edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and I take on the politics of pot. It's a hazy situation and an issue that's getting chronic attention in the state (okay, okay, enough with the drug innuendo).

Where things stand

In 2008 voters – by a pretty large margin - voted to make medical marijuana legal in the state. But, the law is confusing. Not only is there the fact that it’s still illegal under federal law, there are also questions about if and how dispensaries should be regulated; the medical conditions for which  medical marijuana should be prescribed; the size and location of marijuana plants that one is allowed to grow... I could go on and on.

Pluta: Exactly… there are more questions than answers when it comes to this law because it is so vague. So, this week, we’ve seen some measures to add clarity to the law. But, because this law was a voter-initiated and approved law, to  change it, any measure has to have a three fourths majority in both the state House and Senate. Something that’s not in this package is dispensaries – that’s in court right now, but some lawmakers don’t want to wait for a state Supreme Court ruling. They say dispensaries could cure some problems – especially what to do when someone who is legally growing marijuana has more weed than they can use. 

Clark: So, just this week state Representative Mike Callton introduced a measure to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries. But, Callton says he was against the medical marijuana law that passed in 2008.

Collton: “…I think what voters passed is nuts, just crazy insane.”

Pluta: So, why is he introducing this then?

Clark: That is, indeed the question.

Pluta: Callton and some others say it would be better for dispensaries to buy up, or otherwise take possession of, surplus pot instead of having it sold illegally on the street. There’s a division, though. Some Republicans basically consider dispensaries legalized dope dens.

Clark: So, that’s a debate that will take place probably this summer on dispensaries. What’s moving right now would require in-person doctor’s visits to get a medical marijuana card, a picture I.D., and police access to medical marijuana records.

Pluta: Medical marijuana advocates say some of this goes too far. In a couple of instances, it reverses what voters approved in the medical marijuana law and, so, they’re trying again. There is a petition drive in the field to put a question on the ballot to make Michigan a legalized marijuana state.  We’ll see if they can get enough signatures.

Clark:But if they do, expect state Attorney General Bill Schuette to reprise his role as Michigan’s Number One foe of marijuana. Of course, he's the one that led the drive to try to reject the medical marijuana ballot question in the first place back in 2008.

Pluta: That's true. And, if this is a November ballot question, that would make the AG a very busy guy because he also chairs the Mitt Romney Presidential campaign in Michigan.

Clark: Well, funny you should bring up Romney, Rick. Because, yesterday, a lot of heads were turning in the state over the question of whether or not Governor Snyder is being considered as a possible Vice Presidential pick for Romney. All of this peculation got started by simply looking at the sleeping arrangements at the National Republican Convention happening this summer in Florida.

Pluta: A newspaper columnist in Florida noted that the only state delegation that's closer to the Tampa Convention Center than Massachusetts is Michigan. That prompted speculation that Rick Snyder could be on the ballot. It would be sort of a double down of business-guy investors turned politicians from Michigan, or at least with Michigan ties.

Clark: And, the Governor spoke about this yesterday. What did he have to say?

Pluta: He danced divinely. He said he was focused on his job; that he likes being Governor of Michigan. But, he didn't completely take himself out of it. And, he knew exactly what he was doing.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
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