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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

MICHIGAN NEWS for August 2017 - by Kathy Hess

Mitten Marijuana Milestone
It seems that efforts to finally get the issue of legalizing marijuana on the ballot are off to a fabulous start.  The new petition drive has already collected more than 100,000 signatures, only six weeks into the campaign, of the required 252,523 valid signatures within a constricted 180-day period.

     With another 100 or so days of signature collecting to go it looks like the organization spearheading the efforts,  the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, is determined to gather the required signatures in time to put a legalization question on Michigan’s ballot in November of 2018.

     Efforts to get the initiative on the ballot in 2016 were stalled when questions concerning valid signatures and meeting required deadlines became issues.  Those issues are being contested in court, but the process could take much longer than new attempts to gather signatures.

     According to the group’s campaign materials, the ballot proposal would:

     Legalize personal possession, cultivation and use of limited amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older.

     License marijuana businesses that cultivate, process, test, transport and sell marijuana.
Require testing and safety regulations for retail marijuana.

     Tax marijuana sold by retail shops with a 10% excise tax and 6% sales tax, with revenues to be split among public schools, road repair and local governments.

Motown vs. MaryJane
It seems that Detroit is still having issues over the allowances of cannabis to be lawfully distributed via dispensaries throughout the city and surrounding villages.  It’s no secret that Detroit’s Medical Marijuana Caregiver Center zoning and licensing laws are the most restrictive in the country, not just the state.  And if you spend any time in the motor city you’ll notice a change to the dispensary landscape on a weekly basis as one dispensary closes and another one appears a few doors down.

     The city's zoning ordinance for Medical Marijuana Caregiver Centers stipulates that they be located more than 1,000 feet from places like schools, parks, churches, day care centers, liquor stores, pool or billiard halls, arcades, public housing, and other medical marijuana facilities.

     Despite the dispensaries efforts to verify the local surrounding businesses, churches and schools to ensure that any violating business within that 1000 feet is closed and not in operation, local municipalities still toss up road blocks, preventing the opening or closing of lawful dispensaries.  Delayed updates to local registries when a school, church or daycare center closes offers the loophole that gets the dispensaries doors locked.

     Efforts are underway to make changes and to lessen the harassment that business owners deal with when it comes to obtaining licenses and operating lawful dispensaries in Motown. Citizens for Sensible Cannabis (CSC) spokesman Jonathan Barlow confirmed his group submitted petitions late last month seeking to amend Chapter 24 of the city's code.  The initiative proposes that Detroit's medical marijuana ordinance to allow dispensaries to operate near liquor stores, child-care centers and parks.  CSC is rumored to have already collected the necessary signatures and the amendment could appear on the November ballot.

Cannabis in K-Zoo
Kalamazoo (as well as a few other municipalities) seems to be warming to idea of allowing marijuana to play a bigger role in the cannabis community throughout the state.  Two proposed amendments are being considered (final proposals to be presented for adoption in September or October).  One would allow for registered caregivers to operate as a home occupation and the other would define zoning districts where proposed commercial medical marijuana facilities can be located.
According to the City Attorney, Clyde Robinson, facilities would likely be placed in industrial and manufacturing zones, of which Kalamazoo is reported to have an abundance of on the east side of downtown.

     Kalamazoo has decided that it would receive 3% of any retail sales tax, excised on top of any state taxation, to be distributed to local units of government based on their number of medical marijuana facilities, including law enforcement departments at the state and local level.

     Robinson revealed in June that in Kalamazoo County alone contained 4,081 registered medical marijuana patients and 521 registered caregivers.  His goals are to have all necessary ordinance variations adopted before December 15th, the date applications for one of the five commercial licenses can be filed.

     The cities of Buchanan and Niles appear to be making zoning changes to allow for commercial facilities, as well as Bangor and Galien Township.  However, Milton Township is on the fence and Ontwa Township has decided there was no great interest or support. Holly seems to be chilling to any notion of changing zoning to allow for cannabis.

Big Tobacco Rolls a New Way
Skeptics and critics have long touted that the nationwide marijuana-march-towards-legalization was being funded by idealistic stoners, who would likely never succeed in their efforts. That notion was recently extinguished when the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol revealed its donor list. 

     The list exposed that those throwing the most money behind efforts to get the legalization initiative on the ballot is a pack of profit-minded investors and corporate types said to be like Big Tobacco.  If profit minded investors are seeing the potential dollar signs that other states who have already passed legalization measures are banking, then we can be sure those investors expect a nice return.

     It raises questions as to how the smaller growers will keep up in a market with deep pockets like the tobacco industry tipping the scales in their favor.  Recreationalizing cannabis is going to change the marijuana market in Michigan, and it would appear that Big Tobacco plans to eat a big piece of the pie.  The taste of legalization might not be so sweet for everyone currently earning a living in the industry.

Top 6 Donors to the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol:

1.) Smokers Outlet (chain of 68 Wild Bill's Tobacco shops), Troy, $150,000

2.) Marijuana Policy Project (nonprofit with 32,000 members), Wash, D.C., $58,161

3.) Andrew Driver Jr. (with Advance Electric), Gaylord, $35,000

4.) David Kelley (investment banker), Traverse City, $10,000

5.) Alec Riffle (with Tree City Health Collective dispensary), Ann Arbor, $10,000

6.) Wholesale Hydroponics (store for marijuana growers), Lansing, $10,000

Source: Secretary of State Michigan Campaign Finance reports, June 2017

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