LANSING, Mich. – The Republicans in the Michigan Senate are considering combining marijuana legalization with a tax break as a means of making the marijuana legislation more appealing to some members of the Party, according to The Detroit Free Press.
The adult use market is expected to generate $125 million in tax revenue alone annually, and the bill would cut the state income tax and replace it with pot taxes at a rate of 16 percent.
Senate Republicans want to avoid the voters legalizing pot in November and aim to regulate recreational marijuana the way that medical marijuana is regulated. The medical marijuana program in the state is currently regulated by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The board was appointed by the House and Senate Leaders along with the governor, and the politicians want the recreational marijuana market to be run the same way.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Supports Bill
The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is authorized to make major decisions regarding legal marijuana. The Medical Marihuana Review Panel announced recently that they are recommending that 10 new conditions be added to the qualifying list for medical marijuana, but the Department of Licensing's director makes the final decision, and the Senators want recreational marijuana controlled by the same agency.
The panel approved adding arthritis, obsessive-compulsive disorder, spinal cord injuries, and chronic pain to the list but left out anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, social anxiety disorder, brain injury, asthma, diabetes, and gastric ulcers.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said that the Democrats will not support the bill because they prefer to let the voters decide in November as opposed to politicians pushing bad legalization bills through the legislature. “Either way, we’re not on board,” he said.
Democrats say that Republicans want to keep the measure to legalize marijuana off the ballot this November because it is expected to increase voter turnout which could also bring out young liberals voting Democrat.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol is behind the November ballot proposal and raised over $1 million for the petition while gathering more than 360,000 signatures. The group's spokesman Josh Hovey said that whether the voters legalize it or the Legislature legalizes the drug, they will be satisfied that marijuana prohibition is over. Hovey didn't want to get tangled up in any tax deal making discussions.
House GOP May Not Have the Votes
House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-Dewitt) is opposed to the bill and is skeptical Republicans will care to consider the pot proposal. Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) is also opposed to legalization and not a fan of marijuana. Jones introduced a bill last week banning sales of alcoholic and nonalcoholic cannabis-infused beers in the state. The senator said that cannabis-infused beer would be a disaster.
An anonymous House Republican said that they did not have the votes to pass any marijuana legislation and called the move crazy.
The Michigan Legislature now has until June 5 to either amend and pass the pot bill making it a law, wait and let the voters decide in November, or propose an alternative measure. House and Senate Republicans would both need a three-fourths majority to pass any amendments if they wait until November after the voters decide.
Polls show that between 60 and 72 percent of Michigan voters support legalizing recreational marijuana. Voters in Michigan supported legalizing medical marijuana by 63 percent in 2008.
The State Board of Canvassers certified The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol initiative last week for placement on the November ballot. If the measure is passed, adults 21 and older will be able to legally have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in their possession.