Two Cannabis Measures Clear Hurdle in Michigan

On June 11, 2015, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers unanimously voted to approve language for two ballot initiatives that would legalize recreational cannabis in the state. The two groups that submitted the ballot initiatives were the Michigan Cannabis Coalition (MCC) and the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee (MCCLRC).

Under the ballot initiative proposed by the MCC, cannabis would be legal for anyone 21 years or older, cannabis taxes would be set by the legislature, and citizens would be able to grow up to two marijuana plants. Local municipalities would have the authority to ban or restrict the commercial sale of cannabis, as well residential cultivation.

While some may criticize relatively low limit on home cultivation, MCC spokesperson Matt Marsden told The Detroit News that the limit was within reason.

“I believe two plants at home is a reasonable amount of plants for an individual to grow,” said Marsden. “I can’t eat more than two heirloom tomato plants in a given summer. I don’t know if you need more than two marijuana plants to satisfy your home needs.”

In contrast, the MCCLRC’s initiative would limit home cultivation to 12 plants. Instead of leaving the tax question up to the legislation, the organization’s measure would set the cannabis tax rate at 10 percent. Stacked on top of the state sales tax, it would have an effective tax rate of 16 percent.

Tax revenue under the MCCLRC’s initiative would go to three places: 40 percent would go to the Michigan Department of Transportation, another 40 percent would go to the state School Aid Fund, and the remaining 20 percent would go back to the municipalities the cannabis was sold in.

The MCC’s plan diverts tax revenue in more or less the same way with all revenue being equally dedicated to education, public health and public safety.

Although both groups were unanimously approved by the Michigan Board, several members were concerned about the MCCLRC putting all of the initiative language on the back of a single petition sheet. According Michigan Live, board member Julie Matuzak characterized the move as a “terrible disservice to people reading this petition.”

Naturally the chairman of the Cannabis Law Reform Committee, Jeffrey Hank, disagreed. “I think it’s perfectly readable and the wording is publicly available and has been for some time,” Hank told the Detroit Free Press.

Regardless, the race is now on for both groups to collect the required 252,523 valid signatures to get on the state ballot for 2016. According to a recent poll, approximately 51 percent of Michiganders support the legalization of recreational cannabis, which means both proposals have a fighting chance of being approved.

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