LANSING, Mich. >> Organizers of a ballot drive to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in Michigan submitted 365,000 signatures to the state today, which appears to be more than enough to qualify the initiative for a statewide vote in 2018.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said the prohibition against recreational marijuana is “a massive failure.”
Michigan has allowed medical marijuana use for nearly a decade. If the new proposal were to make the ballot and win voter approval, it would make Michigan the ninth state to legalize the drug for recreational use.
If passed, people 21 and older could possess up to 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants at home. A 10 percent tax on marijuana would be assessed on top of the 6 percent state sales tax.
Josh Hovey, a spokesman for the coalition, said fully legalizing the drug for adults would generate hundreds of millions in new tax revenue. He estimated that 20,000 people in the state are arrested annually for marijuana possession and cultivation.
“Oftentimes it’s just adults using a plant that is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco,” he said at a news conference a couple of blocks from the state Bureau of Elections. “It’s breaking up families. It’s destroying communities. … We can impose some regulations, create a new industry in the state. You’re going to see not only the tax benefits of that, but jobs, less crime and letting law enforcement go after things that are more important.”
If state officials determine that about 252,000 of the voter signatures are valid, the bill would go to the Republican-controlled Legislature. Lawmakers would have 40 days to adopt the measure or it would be placed on the November 2018 statewide ballot. Legislators could propose an alternative marijuana bill to put before voters alongside the initiative.
Organizers do not expect the Legislature to consider their proposal.
“Based on my experience working in that Legislature, I don’t think we would have a majority of votes for a sensible legalization bill,” said former Democratic state Rep. Jeff Irwin, of Ann Arbor, the coalition’s political director.
Organizers want to raise $8 million, overall. They have spent nearly all of the $600,000 collected as of Oct. 20, including for paid signature collectors.
Irwin said he expects opioid makers to heavily fund opposition to the measure because they have done so in other states with marijuana ballot drives.
According to national polls, a solid majority of Americans support legalization. Gallup’s latest survey gauged support at 64 percent, up from 12 percent from when the question was first posed in 1969.