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Monday, July 30, 2018

Michigan News - August 2018

SJR-S: to Protect Voter Initiatives

LANSING- The Republican-led Senate and House did not pass the citizens' initiative legalizing recreational marijuana so they could amend it with a simple majority vote as opposed to rolling the dice on a public vote and then needing a three-quarters super majority to pass "clean-up legislation.”

But Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) says this option should never have been on table to begin with. His constitutional amendment, SJR-S (was introduced June 5 and has been referred to the Senate Elections and Government Reform Committee. If it wins a two-thirds vote in the Senate and House, a question to amend the constitution would be placed on the ballot for voters to decide) is designed to protect the initiative petition and referendum process from what he calls "legislative bait-and-switch" tactics.

SJR S would require a three-fourths vote to amend or repeal any law enacted from initiative petition, even if adopted by the Legislature.

"When people sign a petition, they have an expectation that certain outcomes are going to happen," he said. "Marijuana highlighted the gamesmanship that potentially could happen. Thank goodness it wasn't able to get done, but there was a lot of potential circumventing of citizens wishes."

The state constitution allows citizens to initiate legislation by petition. If voters approve it at the ballot box, lawmakers must have a three-quarters majority vote to amend or alter it. If the House and Senate adopt it legislatively, only a simple majority is needed.

Ananich said that should not be too difficult for lawmakers. From 2015-2017, 70 percent of bills passed in the Senate by a supermajority three-fourths vote, he contended.

The resolution would also prevent the Legislature from repealing or amending a law submitted by initiative until the next legislative session. It would extend the power of referendum to any act except general appropriation bills. This would put an end to tagging on meaningless appropriations to bills just to make them immune to repeal.

The constitution currently blocks any bill that includes an appropriation from being subject to referendum. Ananich said the purpose is to protect the budget from being challenged at the ballot box, which could wreak havoc on state finances.

"They put appropriations on bills that they never spend to stop citizens to having a right to an initiative. The second emergency manager law was an example of that. There have been a few other examples of where they are so afraid of the voters saying we don't agree with this that they throw a meaningless appropriation on it for the pure purpose of circumventing the voters will. And I think
that's a problem," he explained.

That's the way the constitution was written, but Ananich argues it was never the intent that lawmakers should use appropriations on bills that are controversial to take away citizens' rights to overturn that with a referendum.


Raid on Cultivation Applicant Facility;

DETROIT- On May 29, Detroit police executed a search warrant and arrested six workers inside the facility. Police officers, in conjunction with U.S. Border Patrol agents, confiscated more than 100 lbs. of cannabis. The six were arraigned June 1 in Michigan’s 36th District Court.

Attorneys for the company told local reporters that Viola Extracts had obtained its temporary cannabis business permit from the city of Detroit. Viola investor Al Harrington, a former NBA star and longtime industry advocate, stated “We're a company that's doing everything by the books. … They just decided to completely disregard all the paperwork that our company spent a lot of time obtaining.”
A spokesperson at the city’s Law Department confirmed that Viola Extracts had been granted zoning approval for its medical marihuana business. Such approval is a prerequisite for earning a state license.

 “At the end of the day, the issue with the industry is that a lot of people or entrepreneurs in the space, especially black and minority [entrepreneurs], only get one time to get this right,” Harrington told Cannabis Business Times. “When you have raids like this that happen and they seize bank accounts ... it puts you in a position where you can't even fight. It's out of your hands, and you're done. You're at the mercy of the court.”

The six defendants were each charged with controlled substance violations involving the delivery or manufacture of 45 kilograms or more of marijuana or 200 or more plants—a Class-C felony with a 15-year maximum prison sentence. Four of the six defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit controlled substance violation, a felony that similarly carries a 15-year maximum prison sentence.

“Law enforcement raids of legally licensed and regulated operations across the country have been dating back now since the beginning of the licensing of cannabis [in the U.S.], and we need to bring a face and understanding of what is happening,” she said at the July 13 press conference. “These businesses are unable to recover, resulting in loss of high-paying jobs and marketable skills.”

“Because of these new laws and emergency regulations, companies from all over the country—legitimate companies—are coming here and investing in the city of Detroit,” attorney Barton Morris said at the press conference. “They’re investing in the state of Michigan. They’re investing in our economy in order to bring regulated commercial cannabis cultivation here in the city.”

Harrington states Viola specifically chose Detroit because of the investment implications: local jobs, the rehabilitation of an old riverfront warehouse, civic participation in a burgeoning industry. (Viola also has corporate operations in Colorado, Oregon and California.) “We want to be able to operate,” Harrington said. “We want to be able to go out and [take] our advantage of being the first to market in a huge market like Michigan.”


Legalization of Recreational Cannabis Divides Gubernatorial Candidates down Party Lines

LANSING- In November, Michigan voters will not only decide who will be the state’s next governor, but also whether to legalize recreational marijuana. And candidates for Michigan governor in this month’s primary are sharply divided, along party lines, when it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana.

Here is a summary of which candidates stand where:

Lt. Governor Brian Calley summed up the GOP argument. “Having another mind-altering substance out there, with the endorsement of the government, I think it a bad thing,” says Calley.

State Senator Patrick Colbeck raised the issue of thousands of Michigan workers failing employer required drug tests. He says there are currently 31,000 open jobs in his state Senate district. “That number of open job-openings in my district is going to go up,” says Colbeck. “When that number of job openings goes up, the number of people on government assistance is also going to go up because they can’t find a job because they can’t pass a drug test.”

Dr. Jim Hines, a Saginaw gynecologist, is a supporter of medical marijuana, but not recreational marijuana. He says there are several potential issues, including lung cancer threats.

Attorney General Bill Schuette; A decade ago, Schuette lead the campaign against legalizing medical marijuana in Michigan.  A Schuette campaign spokesman released a statement saying, “Bill does not personally support legalizing recreational marijuana but as governor he will respect the will of the voters.”

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer (D)expects Michigan voters will approve legalizing recreational marijuana in November, which she says makes the implementation question key. “So it stays out of the hands of kids. To insure the dollars actually go where they’re supposed to go…into our infrastructure and our schools,” says Whitmer.

Businessman Shri Thanedar (D)sees a business opportunity for Michigan entrepreneurs: “I would make sure that big corporations from out-of-state do not come and take advantage of this new law,” says Thanedar.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed (D)calls legalization a civil rights issue. “If you are black in this country, you are 3.3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite no higher likelihood of use,” says El-Sayed.

Both El-Sayed and Thanedar say they would use their power as governor to pardon non-violent drug offenders serving time in Michigan prisons, and expunge their criminal records if Michiganders vote to legalize recreational marijuana.

Candidate Bill Gelineau (L)says there are several positives that can come from legalization, including reallocating law enforcement resources. “Redirection of police and judicial resources to serious crime; a reduction in the law enforcement infrastructure,” Gelineau says on his website. “We simply won’t need to pay for as many enforcement tools, from probation to prison.

John Tatar is the other Libertarian appearing on the August primary ballot, claims he supports decriminalizing recreational marijuana.

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