Lansing, Michigan

LANSING – The battle to free the weed officially started Thursday when the State Board of Canvassers ruled that a group pushing a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use got enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.

The 4-0 decision by the board was met with cheers by advocates for the proposal.

“The people of Michigan deserve this. They earned it,” said Rick Thompson, a board member of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws or NORML. “We’ve faced many trials and tribulations. We’ve had so many stop and go signs from the federal government. That’s why states have to take the reins on the issue and really be the crucibles of democracy that they’ve always been intended to be.”

It was the second time that the coalition had turned in enough signatures to get on the ballot. The last time, however, it didn’t get the signatures in a state-mandated 180-day window and the petition was thrown out. But the coalition didn’t have the same problem this time around. “We expected this,” said John Truscott, spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “Now, we’ll be out and about talking to people and educating them about the issues.”

Scott Greenlee, executive director of the Healthy and Productive Michigan political action committee, which opposes the ballot proposal, urged the Board of Canvassers to keep the issue off the ballot because marijuana is still considered an illegal drug by the federal government.

“By putting this on the ballot, you’re disregarding federal law,” he said. “I recognize that other states have done it, but like my mom always told me, ‘Just because your friends jump off a bridge, doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing.’

“We’re picking and choosing which laws to follow and that’s no way to live,” he said, adding he’s not sure whether his group will continue to fight the Board of Canvassers’ decision in court.

The Michigan marijuana ballot proposal would:

Legalize the possession and sale of up to 2½ ounces of marijuana for personal, recreational use.
Impose a 10% excise tax on marijuana sales at the retail level as well as a 6% sales tax. The estimated revenues from the taxes are at least $100 million.
Split those revenues with 35% going to K-12 education, 35% to roads, 15% to the communities that allow marijuana businesses in their borders and 15% to counties where marijuana business are located.
Allow communities to decide whether they’ll permit marijuana businesses.
Restrict purchases of marijuana for recreational purposes to 2½ ounces but an individual could keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana at home.
Allow the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), and not the politically appointed licensing board that will regulate the medical marijuana side of the market, to regulate and license marijuana businesses, ranging from growers, transporters, testers and dispensaries.
Set up three classes of marijuana growers: up to 100, 500 and 2,000 plants.
Michigan voters have already weighed in on marijuana once, approving cannabis for medical use in 2008 by a 63%-37% margin. As of March, 1, 277,752 people are medical marijuana cardholders and 43,131 people are caregivers who can grow up to 72 plants for up to five cardholders. The state is in the process of vetting applications of people who want to get into the medial marijuana business, which is expected to generate at least $700 million in sales.

That financial prediction is estimated to grow to more than $1 billion a year if voters pass the ballot proposal and Michigan becomes the ninth state to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

In Colorado, the oldest recreational marijuana market in the nation, sales in 2017 were $1.5 billion.

But getting the ballot proposal passed is not a foregone conclusion, despite recent polls showing more than 60% support for legalizing marijuana.

Healthy and Productive Michigan has $215,286 for the battle ahead, primarily from Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a Virginia-based organization that supports cannabis for medical, but not recreational, uses.

“We’ll continue to press forward with education and explain to the public the problems that recreational marijuana will cause in our state,” Greenlee said. “And once it’s certified for the ballot, we’ll have a number of people from Michigan who will come in and support us.”

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol has raised more than $1 million, but spent the vast majority on paying the firm that collected petition signatures. According to campaign finance reports filed this week with the Secretary of State, the coalition has only $17,326 in available cash for the upcoming campaign.

The action taken by the Board on Thursday will trigger a large fund-raising effort, Truscott said.

“We expect to have quite a bit coming in now that it’s all approved,” he said. “There have been a number of meetings in the last few weeks about that.”

With the Board of Canvassers’ approval, the state Legislature has several options: it could consider the measure and pass it, in which case it would automatically become law; it could offer a competing proposal for the ballot or it could do nothing and let the issue go to the Nov. 6 ballot.

While Republicans might want to keep the issue off the ballot in November — because it’s expected to increase voter turnout that could be more beneficial for Democrats — it would also be a very difficult vote for Republican lawmakers to take as many of them face elections in the fall.

Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt, seemed to take the legislative vote option off the table on Thursday.

“I don’t anticipate it happening. There’s not much support in the caucus for it and I personally do not support it,” he said. “I think it’s something that the voters are going to have to ultimately decide.”

Delaware House panel approves marijuana legalization bill

DOVER, Del. – (AP) – A bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Delaware has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The legislation, which was released Wednesday by a House committee and now goes to the full House for a vote, regulates and taxes marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.

The bill doesn’t allow people to grow their own marijuana but allows adults over age 21 to legally possess less than an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

The legislation would create a commission to regulate, license and tax the marijuana industry, allowing licenses for up to 40 retail stores.

Consumers would pay an excise tax of $50 an ounce, while businesses would pay an application fee of $5,000 and a $10,000 licensing fee every two years.

Vermont legislature approves recreational marijuana use

A measure legalizing marijuana use in Vermont cleared the state’s legislature on Wednesday.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has said the legislation is not “a priority for Vermont” and has not made a final decision as to whether he will sign it. The measure makes Vermont the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana use among adults and the first to legalize through a legislative process. Other states have approved recreational marijuana use through ballot initiatives.

“Vermont lawmakers made history today,” said Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a marijuana policy group. “The legislature has taken a crucial step toward ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.” Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized the possession and use of marijuana, though each state has its own rules and regulations. For example, in Washington — one of the first states to legalize pot — only individuals using the drug for medical purposes can grow it, though any adult is allowed to possess and use it.

In Washington, D.C., marijuana can be used and “gifted,” but not bought, sold or exchanged for other goods or services.

Marijuana use is illegal according to federal policy, and President Trump’s opposition to legalization has created uncertainty for some states seeking to regulate the industry.

If signed by the governor, the Vermont measure would remove civil penalties for possessing one ounce of marijuana or less and would allow adults to keep up to two mature pot plants. It would also create a commission to develop a plan for taxing and regulating the drug.

Oklahoma City Update 

OKLAHOMA CITY — A bill to legalize the use of cannabidiol, a derivative linked to marijuana, is heading to a vote of the full Senate after being unanimously approved in the Senate Health and Human Services committee yesterday by a vote of 9-0.

House Bill 2154, also known as Katie and Cayman’s Law, would legalize clinical trials using CBD to treat children and adults who suffer from epileptic seizures and help reduce the number and intensity of their seizures.

“Oklahoma has children who are suffering from different types of epileptic seizures and this bill allows the opportunity to be supportive of innovative treatments that could help them,” Senator Brian Crain (R-Tulsa) said.

State Rep. Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City) emphasizes the bill is not an attempt to legalize marijuana, but an effort to help his niece and other children in the state who suffer from a variety of debilitating types of epilepsy.

“Katie and Cayden’s[sic] Law would allow children with severe epilepsy to participate in a clinical trial using cannabidiol, a marijuana derivative with less than a .3 level of THC to help with seizures, headaches and other effects of various epilepsy-associated ailments,” Echols said. “Cannabidiol is very high in the CBD content, but very low in the THC content, which is the component that gives users the feeling of being ‘high’.”

The bill passed in the House by a vote of 99-2 earlier this year and is now headed to a vote of the full Senate.