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Monday, March 30, 2015

Michigan May Vote to Legalize Marijuana Next Year - MMM Report Staff



    The Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative is preparing to collect signatures to get marijuana legalization on the state ballot for 2016. Jeffrey Hank, the chairman for the initiative, told FOX 17 that the proposal will aim to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana growth and use. The proposal would also preserve existing policies on medical marijuana use and keep medical cannabis tax free. The goal is to end criminal punishment for any sort of marijuana possession or use, except for distributing to minors.

     The proposal is similar to Colorado’s marijuana laws and treat cannabis like alcohol for adults 21 and older. The committee estimates the law would create 25,000 jobs as well as $200 million in annual tax revenue which could be used for repairing roads and funding education. They also believe the proposal would save nearly $300 million annually as law enforcement agencies would no longer need to enforce pot bans. Looking at the $50 million Colorado collected in revenue from taxes and licensing fees, Hank believes the money is just too big to ignore. If passed Michigan would be the 5th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

     Michael Tufflemire, who was the director for DeCriminalizeGR in 2012, believes legalization would free up law enforcement resources as they wouldn’t need to deal with petty marijuana crimes. Evidence for this can be seen in the marijuana arrest numbers from Grand Rapids between 2011 and 2014. Before decriminalization in 2013, Grand Rapids had 747 arrests in 2011 for marijuana related crimes. While in 2014 there were only 98 with all 98 cases involving criminal activity beyond the realm of decriminalization.

     According to Hank, “The time is now. Our polling shows that the majority of people support this already.” They are currently fine-tuning the language of the proposal and the group plans to begin collecting the 250,000 signatures needed this summer. There is a second group known as the Michigan Responsibility Council that is also working on a legalization proposal but the specifics have yet to be announced. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, however, is still adamant about keeping drugs out of the hands of kids and has consistently been against decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana for recreational use. 

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