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Marijuana legalization goes to ballot; campaign shifts focus to November

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Whether Michigan should legalize marijuana for recreational use will be decided by the voters. The state Legislature let today’s deadline for the to act on the initiative lapse. It would legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol.

The state House and Senate would both have had to pass the initiative. The leader of the Senate Republicans said its chamber had enough votes to pass the measure. But the House was not on board.

 “We just simply do not have the votes here for this to happen," said Speaker of the House Tom Leonard. "So the citizens will be deciding this matter.”          

Marijuana legalization advocates expect to start ramping up their campaign for aNovember ballot question sometime in August.   

Josh Hovey is the spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. He says, right now, the campaign is focused on fine-tuning the word of the ballot question on the November ballot. That process involves boiling down a multi-page regulatory proposal into a coherent paragraph on the ballot. 

Hovey expects once that’s settled the campaign will focus on educating voters. 

“We’ll probably wait until after the primary election to really be heavily invested in communications to voters,” says Hovey.

For legalization advocates, getting that message out may be complicated and expensive.  

Marijuana legalization will be part of a busy fall campaign season, along with races for Michigan governor, U.S. Senate and dozens of other elected posts.

Hovey predicts the campaign will need to spend up to “several million dollars.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R