2014 brought eight more big wins in local elections to remove penalties under local laws. Pushing the envelope in last year, the Safer Michigan Coalition lost by small margins in smaller, more rural towns like Lapeer and Frankfort, where the votes came short for the first time. Having tested the waters, we now know what demographics are too conservative to legalize cannabis in general.
2015 is an off election year. Several ballot initiatives that were not turned in prior to the deadline to place the respective questions on the ballot during the gubernatorial election last fall. This year East Lansing, Portage, Utica, Traverse City, Gross Pointe Park, Gaylord, Montrose, and Keego Harbor will be slotted in their city’s next upcoming election. For some cities such as Montrose, the next local election will be in February, . For many others, this May will be a special statewide vote on increasing state sales tax from 6% to 7%.
Typically, non-presidential elections bring out the more die-hard, and often conservative voters. This means that in cities such as Gross Point Park and Keego Harbor we will need to push to bring out the votes. One strategy that has been tried and often proves successful is to mail registered voters literature that educates the reader about the upsides of voting to remove penalties for posession of small amounts of marijuana for all adults. Although this strategy could backfire, alerting opponents of marijuana law reform of the ballot.
2016 is the target year for many marijuana activists in Michigan for a petition for legalization. Unfortunately, recent polling in Michigan for full marijuana legalization has not yet hit the threshold (57-59% or more in favor) to secure funding. It may be necessary to create a new poll for a tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, like Colorado in order to appeal to non-cannabis users. With or without funding one or more volunteer based petition drives might attempt to make a run in 2016. Back in 2012, MI Norml failed at one of these attempts, but learned much about what not to do in a volunteer drive.
In 2010, California’s measure to legalize cannabis (Prop 19) failed. Being that California had such a history of progressive local laws regarding medical marijuana and wide spread cultivation, this came to a big surprise to many Cannabis activist around the nation. What most intelligent people in the movement attributed this to was a lack of solidarity in Cali. Motivated buy greed, growers fought against the prop 19 campaign. Prop 19 was funded largely by the owners of Oaksterdam, and many say that they failed to unify the cannabis community in California. Hopefully, we will look closely at the states that did pass legalization like Colorado, and find a way to win.
One big loss for us this election cycle was the re-election of our least favorite politician in Michigan, Bill Schuette. Hopefully we won’t look back at 2014 as a critical turn in cannabis reform.