LANSING, Mich. — The Detroit Free Press reported June 5 the Michigan Legislature was unable to pass a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The bill was pushed by Senate Republicans who wanted to pass legislation before voters had the opportunity to legalize recreational marijuana in November but came up 20 votes short of the 55 that were needed.
A ballot measure known as The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol gathered enough signatures for placement on the November election ballot. The measure would legalize recreational marijuana and regulate it the same way the state taxes and regulates alcohol.
Polls show 61 percent of voters in the state support legalizing recreational marijuana in Michigan. Seventy-two percent of young voters support legalizing the drug.
Some Republicans wanted to legalize marijuana now so they could control regulations by amending the bill and avoiding the ballot initiative regulations that voters would pass. The party tried to entice far-right members into voting for the bill by binding it with a proposal to eliminate the state income tax but failed to convince the lawmakers.
Wild, Wild West
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) called the failure to vote a missed opportunity and expressed disappointment with his colleagues, as did Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake).
“I’m disappointed in the fact that it’s going to be the wild, Wild West out there,” said Kowall referring to Colorado.
Republicans deem the ballot initiative too lenient. The ballot measure, if passed in November, would allow adults 21 years of age and older to legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for recreational use. Adults could keep up to 10 ounces of the drug in their residence for personal use.
Republicans also want to keep Democrats from the voting booth and they understand that marijuana legalization could boost voter turnout, especially for young people. Senate Republicans do not want to lose the majority vote in Congress, the House, or Senate, and hoped that by passing marijuana legislation and amending it later, they would also suppress liberal voters from voting.
Democrats did not support the bill and want Michigan voters to decide if adult-use marijuana should be legal. Democrats support legalizing the drug overall and said that Republicans would strip the majority of the bill with an over-abundance of amendments.
House Minority Leader Sam Singh (D-Lansing) said that the voters in the state should be heard and conservatives were trying to suppress the vote.
“This is a decision that should go to the voters. This was an idea perpetuated by a small group of Republican donors who wanted to run the system," he said.
The senator added that Democrats could not support voter suppression and were united in their opposition to the proposed legislation.
Recreational Marijuana Michigan
The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act would tax marijuana sales with a 10 percent excise tax and a 6 percent sales tax. The revenue would go to public schools K-12 for education, infrastructure, and state and county communities that will allow marijuana businesses. A provision in the bill will allow state and county communities to decide whether to allow recreational use locally.
Spokesman for the ballot initiative Josh Hovey said that the coalition is confident Michigan voters understand the war on drugs has failed and will vote yes to legalizing and regulating marijuana.
Michigan will be the tenth state to legalize recreational marijuana if voters pass the ballot measure. Legal recreational marijuana in the state is expected to become a $700 million industry annually. More than 63 percent of voters in Michigan legalized medical marijuana in 2008. Voters will decide the state's fate with recreational marijuana on November 6.