LANSING –– Michigan continues to come closer to legalizing and regulating the recreational use of marijuana.
The Michigan State Board of Canvassers on Thursday morning unanimously certified the petition spearheaded by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, all but assuring that the proposal will be on the November ballot statewide, unless the state legislature decides to take up the matter before that.
“This November, Michigan voters will finally get the chance to eliminate Michigan’s outdated marijuana laws,” stated John Truscott, president and principal of Lansing-based PR firm Truscott Rossman and a spokesperson for the coalition. “Just like with alcohol, it is clear that prohibition doesn’t work and that regulation and taxation is a far better solution.”
Should voters choose to approve the ballot proposal, adults 21 and older would be allowed to possess and consume limited amounts of marijuana. It also would allow for the licensing of businesses to operate in the cultivation, processing, testing, transportation and sale of marijuana. Local governments in the state would have the option of whether they wish to allow pot-related businesses operate in the community.
However, the GOP-dominated legislature has 40 days to pass the measure through legislation ahead of a November ballot proposal.
The Detroit News first reported last week that Republicans in Lansing are considering legalization through legislation as a means of taming Democratic voter turnout in the fall.
Whether passed through legislation or at the voting booth, Michigan would become the first state in the Great Lakes region to legalize and regulate pot like alcohol.
The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has previously come out in opposition to the legalization initiative, citing concerns over possible impacts legalized pot could have on the region’s tight labor market.
“The Chamber is concerned over the negative impacts this proposal would have on the economy, talent, public health, and the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law,” Andy Johnston, vice president of government affairs, said in March statement. “This proposal would create a host of new workplace issues for employers. At a time when job providers are struggling to find qualified applicants and talent is the top business issue, we have significant concerns on how passage of this proposal would impact the workforce.”
The push for legalization comes as the state wraps up its licensing of companies in the medical marijuana space, which has been legal in the state since 2008, albeit under a patchwork of regulations.
Businesses that wish to operate in the sector must apply and undergo a thorough background check by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).
National observers of the legalization trend note that having that regulatory structure in place would be of benefit should voters or legislators choose to back away from prohibition of the substance.
“That’s a big advantage,” Bruce Barcott, a marijuana journalist based in the Seattle area, recently told MiBiz. “That’s where Washington was at a disadvantage. We had no records of which dispensaries were licensed and playing by the rules. Having those dispensaries (and other marijuana businesses) licensed is a huge leg up. It’s critically important.”