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5 things to know about Michigan's proposal to legalize marijuana

Marijuana leaves

Update, November 7, 2018:

Michiganders passed Proposal 1, making recreational marijuana legal in the state, on November 6. Read our article about what the proposal will do below.

Original post:

A proposal to legalize recreational marijuana will be on the ballot this November, ten years after the state voted to legalize medical marijuana.

The proposal received an estimated 277,370 signatures, and was certified by the Board of State Canvassers in April. Now, it's one of three proposals that Michigan voters will decide on in November. 

Listen above to hear Stateside's conversation with Eric Lupher, president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, breaking down what you need to know about Proposal 1.  

Even though more and more voters are in favor of recreational marijuana, many details go into implementing such laws. We break down what you need to know about the proposal below:

1. Marijuana would be regulated like alcohol

This is fairly obvious considering the group leading the campaign is the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. But that is essentially what the proposal promises:

“An initiation of legislation to allow under state law the personal possession and use of marihuana* by persons 21 years of age or older; to provide for the lawful cultivation and sale of marihuana and industrial hemp by persons 21 years of age or older; to permit the taxation of revenue derived from commercial marihuana facilities; to permit the promulgation of administrative rules; and to prescribe certain penalties for violations of this act.”

Like alcohol, it would be illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase or use marijuana, and marijuana retailers and growers would be licensed by the state. And like tobacco, landlords, leaseholders, and business owners would be able to prohibit smoking marijuana on their premises. It would also remain illegal to smoke marijuana in public.

It would be illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, however there are no proven effective tests to measure whether a driver is high or not.

*Bonus fact: In Michigan law, “marijuana” is spelled “marihuana.” According to the WashingtonPost, this follows the pattern of federal law. Both the “j” and “h” spellings of the word were common after the Spanish-American War, but the federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 solidified the “h” spelling for future legal language.

2. Anyone over 21 can have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana

According to the proposal, anyone over the age of 21 would be able to “possess, use, transport, or process 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana or 15 grams of marijuana concentrate.” It would also be legal to “share or transfer without payment” up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to another person over 21 years old.

To put that into context, recreational marijuana is typically sold in increments starting from an eighth of an ounce to a quarter ounce, half ounce, and a full ounce.

Individuals would also be able to grow up to 12 marijuana plants, and store up to 10 ounces from those plants in locked containers in one’s residence.

3. There would be a 10% excise tax on all marijuana sales

The state treasury department would carry out the proposal’s specifications on how marijuana tax revenue would be spent.

At first, tax money will go toward “the implementation, administration, and enforcement” of the act. After that, $20 million would be provided annually to “one or more clinical trials that are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration and sponsored by a non-profit organization or researcher within an academic institution researching the efficacy of marihuana in treating the medical conditions of United States armed services veterans and preventing veteran suicide.”

Any remaining money will be split four ways: 15% for municipalities where a marijuana business is located, 15% for counties where a marijuana business is located, 35% for the school aid fund, and 35% to the transportation fund to fix roads and infrastructure.

Under the proposal, local municipalities do have the authority to ban or limit marijuana establishments. However, those municipalities would not be allotted any of the tax revenue.

4. People previously arrested for marijuana possession would not be pardoned

The proposal does not address what would become of those who have been arrested for selling or possessing marijuana, and does not include any language on a retroactive application of the law.

In other words, people who were arrested for possessing marijuana when it was illegal would not be automatically pardoned. Currently, a marijuana possession charge is a misdemeanor, and can result in one year of incarceration and up $2,000 in fines.

As the legalization of recreational marijuana spreads nationwide, many have called for the fair treatment of those imprisoned for possession, especially since those prisoners are disproportionately non-white.

Currently, nearly 10% of drug arrests in Michigan are marijuana-related, accoring to Michigan State Police data.

5. Michigan would become the 10th state to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana

California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington have legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purchases.

Meanwhile, the federal government under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has continued to buckle down on marijuana laws. The Department of Justice issued a memo in January instructing U.S. attorneys to enforce the federal prohibition on marijuana.

However, under a bipartisan bill currently making its way through Congress, federal law might lose some power when it comes to prosecuting marijuana infractions. The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act would ensure “that each State has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders.”

The 2018 election is Tuesday, November 6.

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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