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Monday, March 30, 2015

April VGIP Update - by Ben Horner

    This year has seen a particular shift in cannabis law reform here in Michigan. In previous years, most of our state’s lawmaker were very uncomfortable about both medical marijuana and the decriminalization of cannabis for adult use. The paradigm is shifting as more states legalize marijuana. No longer is the question, will we tax and regulate marijuana in Michigan, but how.

     After we released the polling data that indicated that Michiganders would prefer to tax and regulate marijuana verses in creasing the Michigan sales tax, two groups announced their intent to introduce a ballot petition to legalize cannabis in Michigan for adults. Recently Tim Beck, the godfather of modern cannabis law reform, declared his acceptance of a consulting position a conservative group of capital investors of republican insiders called the Michigan Responsibility Council (MRC).  The Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative (MCCLR) has also declared their intent to legalize, but their approach is grassroots.

     So far neither group has released any language for their petition. There are three forms of statewide petitions to change laws in Michigan; Referendum on legislation, amendment to the state constitution or a statutory petition to amend or create new legislation. Constitutional amendments require the most signatures (315,654) and have the most binding effect. Initiative to statutory law (252,523 signatures required) is less binding, easier to pass and requires fewer signatures.

     If two petitions are on the ballot, and both pass, the one with more votes sets the precedent. The MRC boasts an initial budget of 10 million, were as the MCCLR has not indicated any significant budget, yet hopes to raise money from the cannabis related activists and merchants around the state, or from whoever will support their cause.

     Robin Schneider, the legislative liaison for the National Patients Rights Association (NPRA) informed the MMM Report that there is an increase of activity in the legislature. “The new mantra from law enforcement and conservatives is let’s address the medical concerns so we can say it’s been resolved before it’s used as an excuse to legalize across the board. The Governors admin has met individually with state departments and law enforcement to get the final concerns out on the table. We have a meeting tomorrow and hopefully an opportunity to view the sub bill. From what I’ve been told so far there will be separate licenses for small scale production, manufacturing and retail. Also its said caregivers will be able to participate with overages. We will have our house Judiciary Hearing in April and full house vote to follow. There are 8 lobbyists working on our issue now. Two representing database companies, three for large scale restrictive growing, an industry group, the NPRA, CPU and another who I’m not clear on agenda but will be meeting with tomorrow. There’s so much action in the Capitol on our issue I think it foolish to assume the legislature won’t act.”

     The Vote Green Initiative Project is committed to see cannabis legalized for all. We have concluded that we must wait and observe what these various interests do. Only after we see what others are planning can we take action. Till then, we urge all activists in the state to reach out to their respective state senator and house representative regarding and speak your mind about cannabis law reform, medical marijuana and personal rights to cultivate marijuana.

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