Three Marijuana Measures Proposed in Michigan

It is a race against time in the state of Michigan as multiple marijuana advocacy groups clamor about the state collecting signatures to get their respective marijuana bills on the ballot for 2016. As the Green Rush ekes its way across the eastern part of the country, no state wants to get left in the dust; and Ohio’s legalization efforts have given Michigan a case of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Currently there are three legalization groups in Michigan seeking to put a legalization bill on the ballot for 2016.

The first group is the Michigan Cannabis Coalition whose members are comprised of an anonymous collection of individuals from agricultural, real estate, insurance and education sectors. The group’s spokesperson is Republican consultant Matt Marsden.

“We don’t want people going to Toledo spending money when we can collect [tax] revenue from it,” Marsden told the Lansing State Journal, adding, “We might as well take the reins, set it up responsibly and take the revenue from it.” Last week the group submitted language for its 2016 ballot initiative with the Board of Canvassers in Lansing.

If the language is approved, the MCC, and any other group that gets their bill on the ballot, will have approximately six months to collect 252,000 signatures to qualify for consideration. Once that goal is met, the Michigan legislature will have the option of acting on the measure. If the legislature rejects or ignores the bill, it will then go to a vote during the 2016 election.

Under the ballot initiative proposed by the MCC, a Cannabis Control Board would be established and membership would be comprised of three members of the agricultural industry appointed by the governor and two legislative appointees. The board would issue cultivation licenses for indoor commercial marijuana production in both industrial and agricultural zones.

Dispensaries would be allowed in retail locations, provided that the dispensary is not within 1,250 feet of a school zone. Persons with a felony on their record would not be allowed to work within the industry, home cultivation would be limited to a maximum of four plants.

Another group pushing for legalization in 2016 is the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee. Last week the organization released draft language of its 2016 ballot initiative. Under the MCCLRC’s bill, marijuana taxation would be set at a flat 10 percent, with the legislature having the option of lowering taxes but not increasing them.

The Department of Transportation would receive 40 percent of the marijuana tax revenue, another 40 percent would go to the school aid fund and the remaining 20 percent would return to the local where the revenue was generated. Individuals would also be able to grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal use, contrasting with the MCC’s bill which only allows four.

The third and final group pushing for legalization is the Michigan Responsibility Coalition. At the moment the organization is trying to work with lawmakers to pass marijuana reform, but if lawmakers fail to act, the MRC claims it will be ready to pursue its own initiative.

The MRC’s vision for Michigan’s marijuana industry includes limiting the amount of marijuana cultivators in the state to a small number. “This would set up a group of investors who would control the wholesale market for marijuana,” MRC spokesperson Tim Beck told the Detroit Free Press.

The MRC is quick to point out that this would not establish a marijuana monopoly within the state, but having a singular group of investors controlling an entire market is the very definition of a monopoly.

Like Ohio, Michigan finds itself in an interesting position for 2016. With 50 percent of Michiganders in support of legalization, marijuana has a fighting chance, but only if there is a united voice. With potentially three choices that may go on the ballot, voters have a very good chance of getting confused and completely splitting the votes.

It is a race to the finish in Michigan, and whoever gets to the ballot first stands a better chance of separating themselves from the crowd. We can only hope that one contender can distinguish themselves; otherwise, Michigan’s marijuana moment might get spoiled by industry infighting.

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