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.

Michigan Medical Marijuana rules, fees, set to change despite concerns

LANSING, MI — Michigan is moving forward with new rules for its medical marijuana program despite concerns voiced by some lawmakers and patient advocates.

Under the pending rule change, the most significant revision of its kind since initial implementation of the 2008 voter-approved law, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs would would reduce two-year registration fees for most patients from $100 to $60.

But the new rules, set to take effect January 15, drew criticism during public hearings because LARA would also eliminate a reduced fee rate for residents who qualify for supplemental Social Security benefits or full Medicaid.

Some low-income patients could actually see registration fees increase from $25 to $60 this year, making it potentially more difficult for them to access the drug.

Overall, the revised structure would “reduce the registration fees for approximately 88 percent of applicants,” LARA spokesperson Jeannie Vogel said in an email.

She also noted that caregivers seeking certification to grow plants will also pay a $25 fee for their own background checks “instead of patients continuing to cover the cost to verify the caregivers eligibility.”

The proposed rules were met with opposition during an October hearing before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, where lawmakers raised various concerns beyond the fee structure and suggested that LARA make changes to the proposal.

Term-limited Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, questioned a requirement that petitioners must submit a peer-reviewed study when asking the Medical Marijuana Review Panel to consider adding a new condition to the program, noting that federal laws generally discourage university-funded research.

Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, criticized LARA plans to require online applications without providing an offline method for patients lacking Internet access.

“If the person can’t file the darn thing unless they go out and buy a computer, why are you saying to them they can’t register?” said Pappageorge, R-Troy, who was term limited as well and will not return in 2015.

JCAR did not sign off on the new rules and refused to grant a waiver of session days allowing for quicker implementation, a move that appeared to spell trouble for the medical marijuana program proposal.

But the panel does not actually have “approval” rights under the state Administrative Procedures Act, according to Vogel, and JCAR did not file a notice of objection within 15 days of receiving the rules package. “Hence, the rules may be filed and go into effect.”

Rick Thompson, a medical marijuana activist and and former editor of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, said it was “disingenuous” for LARA to move forward with the rules without making any changes following the JCAR hearing.

“I think anytime you make a change to administrative rules where you ignore the input provided by the public and lawmakers, there’s a concern,” he said. “None of those concerns were heard. All of the issues raised remain in the new policy, and patients are not benefiting.”

The rules would allow Michigan to become the first state in the country to adopt a mandatory online registration process, according to Thompson.

He noted the logic of the U.S. Supreme Court, which is adopting online filing but will not abandon paper entirely because, as Chief Justice Justice John Roberts put it, “courts cannot decide to serve only the most technically capable or well-equipped segments of the public.”

The pending medical marijuana rules, available for review on the state’s website, will not immediately require online registration but will give the state that option moving forward.

“Mandatory online registration is being considered, but a final decision hasn’t been made,” Vogel said.

LARA processed 92,652 new medical marijuana applications in fiscal year 2014, according to a recent report to the Legislature required under the law. Of those, it approved 71,336 applications and denied 21,316.

Another 24,329 individuals filed renewal applications. The department approved 20,562 of those and denied 3,767.

Total applications were down from fiscal year 2013, which was expected after the state Legislature moved to make registry cards valid for two years instead of one.

Application fees generated $8.9 million between October 2013 and September 2014, down from a record $10.9 million the previous year. Despite fewer applications the cost of administering the program jumped from $4 million to $5.8 million, according to LARA, but processing speeds increased.

Only .45 percent of applications were not approved or denied within 15 business days, according to the report, down from 21.5 percent the previous year. About 1.6 percent of renewals exceeded the processing deadline, compared to 19.9 percent in fiscal year 2013.

The average processing time for initial applications was 9.1 business days in fiscal year 2014, while the average time for renewals was 9.6 days.

Drama Brewing around medical marijuana bills in final days of ‘lame duck’ session

LANSING — With a little less than 48 hours remaining in the legislative session, Michigan law enforcement and public health officials expressed concern about two medical marijuana bills they say are being rushed through the Legislature.

In a Wednesday morning press briefing, the executive directors of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Michigan Sheriff’s Association and Michigan Association for Local Public Health urged Michigan senators not to pass House Bills 5104 and 4271.

The bills would allow for the return of regulated dispensaries and allow registered patients to use edibles. Parts of the bills would also allow medical marijuana cardholders to sell up to 50 ounces of excess product, something that concerned Robert Stevenson, head of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

“We’re creating an incentive for people to get a medical marijuana card and become involved in drug distribution,” Stevenson said.

The bills passed the Michigan House of Representatives back in December 2013 and have been sitting in the Michigan Senate for about a year. Stevenson, along with Terrence Jungel, head of the sheriff’s association, and Meghan Swain, head of the association for local public health, urged lawmakers to leave them be.

However, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville has been working on potential modifications to the legislation and believes both bills could still end up on Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk by the end of the year.

“We’re gonna try,” Richardville told reporters Wednesday. “We’ve got about 48 hours, and that’s more than enough time.”

When told the governor’s office didn’t believe there is enough time to finish work on the bills this year, Richardville said, “If we send him something, he’ll have to react to it. We’ve outperformed their expectations before.”

Richardville, who said that Michigan State Police have been helpful during discussions, said he’s trying to “walk that tightrope” between law enforcement needs and legitimate patient access to medical marijuana.

“Some of these people really do need this kind of medication,” he said.

The law enforcement officials who gathered Wednesday morning said they had not been consulted about the medical marijuana bills.

“We’ve not been invited to the table to talk about them,” Stevenson said.

Jungel, a retired sheriff from Ionia County, said the bills haven’t been vetted enough and complained lawmakers are trying to rush them through the Legislature in the lame-duck session.

“It’s the equivalent of Obamacare in that it’s not being betted adequately before implementation,” he said.

Swain said she was concerned with the lack of regulation regarding the edibles portions of the legislation. Edibles are foods baked with butter that’s been infused with THC, the active intoxicating chemical in marijuana.

She said it’s not clear how edibles will be regulated or who will regulate the bakeries where the edibles are made. Swain hoped the bills would be pushed into the next legislative session for more discussion and more input from local health departments.

“There are a lot of moving pieces and parts of this that have not been addressed in this legislation,” she said.

The law enforcement officials seemed mostly concerned with the provision in the bill that would allow people with medical marijuana cards to sell their excess supply.

Stevenson compared the provision with a person who is prescribed Oxycontinin being allowed to take three pills and sell the rest of the bottle to someone else. He said he’s also concerned about the bills not providing a way for law enforcement to track those sales.

“There’s no way we can track where the medical marijuana is going to, who it’s coming from and where it’s ultimately going,” he said.

Congress Hands A Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana movement, plus a painful setback

For the marijuana legalization movement, 2014 ends the way it began: with legal changes that showcase the movement’s momentum alongside its problems.

Tucked into the 1,603-page year-end spending bill Congress released Tuesday night were a pair of provisions that affect proponents of cannabis reform. Together they form a metaphor for the politics of legal cannabis—an issue that made major bipartisan strides this year, but whose progress is hampered by a tangle of local, state and federal statutes that have sown confusion and produced contradictory justice.

First the good news for reformers: the proposed budget would prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funds to prosecute patients or legal dispensaries in the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that passed some form of medical-marijuana legalization. The provision was crafted by a bipartisan group of representatives and passed the Republican-controlled House in May for the first time in seven tries. If passed into law, it would mark a milestone for the movement, restricting raids against dispensaries and inoculating patients from being punished for an activity that is legal where they live but in violation of federal law.

“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana, and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement to TIME. The California Republican’s work on the issue reflects the strange coalition that has sprung up to support cannabis reform as the GOP’s libertarian wing gains steam and voters’ views evolve.

At the same time, the House chose to overrule Washington, D.C., on the issue. Last month voters in the District chose to liberalize its marijuana laws, passing an initiative that legalized the possession, consumption and cultivation of recreational marijuana. The move, which was supported by about 70% of the capital’s voters, paved the way for D.C. to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State by establishing a tax-and-regulatory structure for cannabis sales in 2015.


Five Michigan cities; how and when they decriminalized marijuana possession

On November 4, voters in five Michigan cities voted to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Huntington Woods
Mount Pleasant
Port Huron

These are the most recent cities to do so. But decriminalizing a federally illegal substance is complex. These laws leave a lot up to the interpretation of local law enforcement officials.

Decriminalizing marijuana began back in 1972 in Ann Arbor, and has really picked up steam over the last few years. Here’s an overview of the cities that have decriminalized marijuana in Michigan, when they did so, and what it means for residents and law enforcement.

Ann Arbor, 1972

Starting in 1972, possession of two ounces or less of marijuana would yield a $5 ticket. The law came about in response to the arrest of poet and activist John Sinclair, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling two joints to undercover police officers.

Today, the ticket is $25, and no specific amount of weed is listed in the city charter.

For a more in-depth recounting of Ann Arbor’s history, read this post by Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush.

Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, 2012

Detroit’s proposal M exempts adults 21 years or older from criminal prosecution for the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana.

Flint’s policy is similar to Detroit’s, but for citizens 19 years or older. Flint police, however, were very vocal about the vote not influencing the way that police officers carried out their jobs.

Grand Rapids voters approved a law that mirrors Ann Arbor’s — possession of marijuana is a civil infraction, similar to receiving a parking ticket.

That vote is being challenged by the Kent County prosecutor’s office in court. The Michigan Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the case on November 14.

The prosecutor’s office says the charter amendment conflicts with state law and prevents prosecutors from doing their job prosecuting criminal offenses, which includes drug cases. The city is defending the amendment.

Lansing, Jackson, Ferndale, 2013

Voters in Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale all passed local laws decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana in November of 2013.

Hazel Park, Oak Park, August 2014

Both Hazel Park and Oak Park voted to decriminalize less than one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older who are on private property.

Berkley, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Saginaw, Mount Pleasant, Port Huron, November 2014

In the Metro Detroit communities of Berkley and Huntington Woods, voters lifted local bans on possession of marijuana for individuals 21 years or older on private property.

Pleasant Ridge voted to make marijuana a low priority for city police officers.

And Saginaw voters put a new section in the city’s charter that prevents elected officials from placing further restrictions on marijuana use for people 21 and up who are on private property. According to MLive:

Saginaw County Sheriff William Federspiel said deputies will stop citing people with minor marijuana violations. However, interim Saginaw police Chief Robert Ruth and Saginaw County Prosecutor John McColgan both said they did not plan on having their respective departments change how they do their jobs.

Mount Pleasant voted that nothing in the city’s charter would punish marijuana possession of less than an ounce, which according to the city’s public information officer, won’t result in much of a change because they already do not target marijuana use.

Port Huron narrowly passed a similar ordinance to Berkley and Huntington Woods.

But what does it mean?

These local laws all conflict with state and federal laws that deem marijuana use illegal. The laws are, however, symbolic of the public’s increasing tolerance of marijuana use and possession.

In an interview with Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody, Jeff Hank, who headed up Lansing’s pro-marijuana campaign, said, “It sends a message not only to our local politicians, but politicians at the state level that it’s time to do something.”

We ran this list by the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington D.C. and they agreed that it looks complete. If you think we missed a city, let us know!

City of Mt. Pleasant votes to decriminalize marijuana – Michigan

City of Mt. Pleasant votes to decriminalize marijuana

By Randi Shaffer, The Morning Sun

Mt. Pleasant residents have overwhelmingly voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana.
“This is a significant statement in Michigan politics,” Ian Elliott said.

Elliott runs Student Advocates for Medical and Responsible Use of Cannabis at Central Michigan University, and works as a liaison between the organization and the Coalition for a Safer Mt. Pleasant.

Elliott said that because a medical marijuana act had passed within both Isabella County and the city in 2008, he kind of figured the ballot proposal “had a good chance.”

“I was surprised at how high some of the precincts went,” he said. “Seeing 70 percent across the board was fantastic.”

Elliott said it was likely that a high percentage of those precinct voters were Central Michigan University students.

Elliott said that, in talking with those who spent time at the polls Tuesday, general observations indicated there was a high amount of younger voters.

“We definitely feel that the marijuana proposal had a part in it,” he said.
With a vote of 2,705 to 1,639, city residents voted Tuesday to amend the city ordinance so that nothing in the city’s code would apply to the use, possession or transfer of “small amounts” of marijuana on private property by those 21 and over.

Mt. Pleasant’s ordinance defines “small amounts” as less than one ounce.