Have you ever argued with a cop about how unfair a law is or that the cop was wrong for pulling you over? Maybe it was a seatbelt violation, a burned-out blinker or a failure to make a complete stop. You complained and the cop said, “look, I don’t make the laws, I just enforce them”. On Wednesday, not only did we witness cops trying to influence the law, we also saw them do it in an organized manner all across the state. It’s also worth mentioning that they were joined by prosecutors and public health officials to warn the public about the dangers of legalizing marijuana and how legalization would reshape Michigan’s landscape for the law enforcement community. And they’re right! It will reshape the legal landscape so that cannabis consumers are free to grow, possess, consume cannabis products without fear of arrest or prosecution so long as they conduct themselves within the limits of the law. And while they understand what’s about to happen, they’re not going to let it happen without a fight because the future of law enforcement, their inability to arrest people with cannabis will have a huge impact on the policies of every department across the state because in 2016, marijuana arrests accounted for 9% of ALL arrests that year! Readjusting to a new paradigm where it’s legal for people to grow and possess cannabis, a paradigm where 9% of your workload vanishes overnight, that will take time for members of law enforcement to accept, but eventually they will.
Opponents of legalization, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, public health officials, oh, and former Senate Majority Leader, the Honorable Randy Richardville, and an unnamed opposition group whose funding comes from Washington D.C.’s Project SAM, dominated one news cycle with 47 days to go before the election by implementing a well-designed and flawlessly executed event to oppose legalization. The second facet of this media blitz was an poll done by Target Insyght, commissioned by MIRS News Service and Governmental Consulting Services Inc. (GCSI) that showed the ballot question, Prop 18-1, down 41 to 47 percent. That poll contradicted most other polls including a very recent poll from WDIV/DetroitNews that showed Prop 1 with likely-voter support of 56 percent. The third act of their performance was a ginned-up report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area group that provided 176 pages of modern mythology about the impact of cannabis legalization in Colorado. They were armed and ready for battle, but what did they accomplish?
47 days left in a campaign is an very long time when you’re sitting on a comfortable, yet precarious lead. Did popo make up any ground in the polls with their lobbying? Maybe, maybe not. They may have shot their wad a bit too early, but we don’t know what the unnamed group has left in it’s playbook for the next 45 days and this could just have been the opening salvo from our opponents.
Cannabis consumers need to understand, we will face opposition, but we can not respond to every move they make with knee-jerk reactions. The Marijuana Policy Project, who is the primary benefactor for Prop 1, hired the best ballot initiative PR firms in Michigan, Truscott Rossman (TR). TR was founded in 2011 by Kelly Rossman-McKinney and John Truscott, who have more than 50 years combined communications consulting experience. Together they have individually been ranked the No. 1 and No. 2 most effective public relations professionals each time MIRS/EPIC-MRA has surveyed state Capitol insiders—in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013. The survey has also continuously ranked their firms as a whole as the top 1 and 2 most effective firms in the state in each of the years the survey has been conducted. We have to put our faith in TR at this point to make the right calls. I trust them and you should too!
So for the next 45 day, here’s what folks can do;
1) Make sure that you, your family members and all your friends are registered to vote
2) The last day to register to vote is October 9, 2018
3) Make a plan with family and friends to vote in groups and designate a driver
4) Learn more about cannabis and it’s social and physiological impacts
5) Talk to people about legalization at social gatherings and out in public
6) Leave comments and have discussions on social media
7) Pass out fliers and put a sign in your lawn or in the window of your business (as soon as available)
8) Buy a button to support our work
9) Make a donation to the campaign
10) BE READY TO VOTE YES ON PROP 1 ON NOVEMBER 6th!
Don’t be fooled by shoddy salesmen in crisp uniforms with brass buttons. Do your homework, read the posts on the Michigan NORML Facebook page, and make sure you educate your family and friends. Also make sure your circle of people are all registered to vote so they too can be a history-maker on November 6, 2018!
For 40 days and 40 nights, cannabis reformers in Michigan waited and worried about what our state legislature might do with the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol [CRMLA] ballot initiative that was approved by the Board of State Canvassers [BOC] in April. By law, after the proposal is approved by the BOC, the legislature has 40 days to approve the proposal or send it to voters. Thankfully, the legislature failed to adopt the proposal and now the voters will have an opportunity to determine if cannabis should be legal for adults in our state!
Reformers were concerned that the proposal would be adopted by the legislature and stripped of key protections such as home cultivation and possession limits. Incoming Senate Majority Leader, Mike Shirkey went so far as to state on Tim Skubick’s Off The Record program [8:25 on the video] that the legislature would also like to delay implementation of the proposal until after the federal government legalized cannabis, effectively subverting the intent of the proposal. Shirkey’s comments were very controversial and were not well-received by either cannabis reformers or legislators, but it was apparent to me (and a few others including some legislators) that his comments were inflammatory and produced the opposite result of what he was trying to achieve. He effectively torpedoed his own ship!
Current Senate Majority Leader, Arlan Meekhof, then launched a media campaign claiming to have enough votes in the Senate to adopt the proposal and he pressured the House to do the same. There’s was one gigantic flaw in Meekhof’s strategy, he didn’t actually have the votes in the Senate to adopt the CRMLA, and in fact, the Senate never voted on the proposal. My sources told me and MIRS News seems to confirm that the votes were never there in the Senate and that Meekhof was playing a high-stakes game of who will blink first. We didn’t blink and Meekhof lost in spectacular style! Chalk one up for the good guys for not blinking!
The examples above demonstrate that our legislators lied. They told flat-out untruths that were exposed and that’s what voters need to understand. You can not rely on information provided by legislators about cannabis to be accurate or even make sense in some cases because they are part of the organized resistance to sensible cannabis reforms. And, they have allies who are just as untrustworthy!
Two groups have formed to oppose the CRMLA, Healthy and Productive Michigan [HPM] and the Committee to Keep Pot out of Neighborhoods and Schools [CKPNS]. Of the two groups, the CKPNS is the most flippant, they oppose the proposal, yet they urged lawmakers to adopt and gut the proposal because in the words of their spokesperson, Mark Fisk from Byrum & Fisk Communications, “This ballot initiative, if passed by voters, will disrupt and dismantle the tough safeguards, local control and system of licensing, testing, taxation and accountability now found in the medical marijuana regulatory framework.” Mr. Fisk apparently has not read the CRMLA proposal because it doesn’t do any of the things he claims.
First, I’ll simply respond by saying, Mark Fisk is full of bovine feces! That statement is completely incorrect. The CRMLA proposal authorizes the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs [LARA] to develop a licensing structure similar to the structure established by the legislature for the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, but it eliminates the politically-charged Licensing Board that has been a bottleneck for that program. The Licensing Board is not a “tough safeguard”, it’s an unnecessary roadblock and it must be removed. It’s very important for voters to understand this distinction, and that our opponents, by and large, are liars.
In conclusion, our opponents are like the prosecutor from the movie, My Cousin Vinny. They are creating a narrative. They will give you facts that seem to have straight edges, that they appear to have the right shape, they will tell you these facts in a very special way so they appear to have everything a fact should have, but there’s one thing our opponents won’t tell you, when you look at the facts from the right angle, they are as thin as a playing card. All their facts are an illusion!
Don’t be fooled by slick salesmen in expensive suits. Do your homework, read the posts on the Michigan NORML Facebook page, and make sure you educate your family and friends. Also make sure your circle of people are all registered to vote so they too can be a history-maker on November 6, 2018!
Testimony was provided in the Michigan Senate by NORML of Michigan Board member Rick Thompson on 5/9/2018.
The bill is SB 969 and would ban the production possession or sale of beverages infused with cannabis.
View the video of the hearing at the link below:
May 5, 2018
Below is a list of all the bills that are active in the Michigan legislature. Please reach out to your state Representatives and Senators and talk to them about these bills.
SB 0433 of 2017 (PA 0105 of 2017)
Marihuana; facilities; background check requirements for prospective licensees; modify. Amends sec. 402 of 2016 PA 281 (MCL 333.27402).
Last Action: 09/06/2017 – ASSIGNED PA 0105’17 WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT
SB 0463 of 2017
Advertising; other; advertising of marihuana; regulate. Amends sec. 18a of 1972 PA 106 (MCL 252.318a).
Last Action: 09/28/2017 – REFERRED TO COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
SB 0599 of 2017
Marihuana; facilities; applicant for medical marihuana facilities license; allow continued operation in certain circumstances. Amends sec. 201 of 2016 PA 281 (MCL 333.27201). TIE BAR WITH: SB 0600’17
Last Action: 09/28/2017 – REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON HEALTH POLICY
SB 0600 of 2017
Marihuana; facilities; applicant for medical marihuana facilities license; allow continued operation in certain circumstances. Amends secs. 302 & 402 of 2016 PA 281 (MCL 333.27302 & 333.27402). TIE BAR WITH: SB 0599’17
Last Action: 09/28/2017 – REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON HEALTH POLICY
SB 0969 of 2018
Liquor; other; use, possession, and sale of marihuana-infused alcohol; prohibit. Amends 1998 PA 58 (MCL 436.1101 – 436.2303) by adding sec. 914b.
Last Action: 05/01/2018 – REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON REGULATORY REFORM
HB 4606 of 2017
Crimes; controlled substances; provision related to transportation or possession of usable marihuana; repeal. Repeals sec. 474 of 1931 PA 328 (MCL 750.474).
Last Action: 02/27/2018 – RECONSIDER VOTE POSTPONED
HB 4767 of 2017
Advertising; other; advertising of marihuana; regulate. Amends sec. 18a of 1972 PA 106 (MCL 252.318a).
Last Action: 06/20/2017 – bill electronically reproduced 06/15/2017
HB 4837 of 2017
Marihuana; facilities; location of a medical marihuana facility; prohibit if within certain distances of a school, church, child care center, or other buildings owned or operated by certain youth organizations. Amends secs. 205 & 402 of 216 PA 281 (MCL 333.27205 & 333.27402).
Last Action: 08/16/2017 – bill electronically reproduced 07/12/2017
HB 4965 of 2017
Revenue sharing; other; funding to local governmental units that approve medical marihuana ordinances; eliminate. Amends 1971 PA 140 (MCL 141.901 – 141.921) by adding sec. 17b.
Last Action: 09/19/2017 – bill electronically reproduced 09/14/2017
HB 5014 of 2017
Marihuana; facilities; applicant for medical marihuana facilities license; allow continued operation in certain circumstances. Amends secs. 201 & 402 of 2016 PA 281 (MCL 333.27201 & 333.27402).
Last Action: 09/27/2017 – bill electronically reproduced 09/26/2017
HB 5144 of 2017 (PA 10 of 2018)
Marihuana; facilities; requirements for the issuance of a state operating license; revise, and provide for other general amendments. Amends title & secs. 102, 201, 205, 206, 501, 502, 503, 504, 505, 602 & 801 of 2016 PA 281 (MCL 333.27102 et seq.).
Last Action: 01/30/2018 – assigned PA 10’18 with immediate effect
HB 5189 of 2017
Marihuana; facilities; number of grower licenses at a single location; limit. Amends sec. 501 of 2016 PA 281 (MCL 333.27501).
Last Action: 10/31/2017 – bill electronically reproduced 10/26/2017
HB 5222 of 2017
Marihuana; other; requirement for health warning labels on marihuana products sold in Michigan; provide for. Amends sec. 206 of 2016 PA 281 (MCL 333.27206).
Last Action: 03/08/2018 – REFERRED TO COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE WITH SUBSTITUTE S-2
HR 0224 of 2018
A resolution calling on the United States Attorney General to respect the people of Michigan’s constitutionally-protected right to regulate marihuana at the state level, calling on the President of the United States to replace him if he is unwilling to fulfill this duty.
Last Action: 01/16/2018 – referred to Committee on Law and Justice
HB 5654 of 2018
Marihuana; administration; allocation of money in the medical marihuana excise fund; modify for counties and local law enforcement agencies. Amends sec. 602 of 2016 PA 281 (MCL 333.27602).
Last Action: 02/28/2018 – bill electronically reproduced 02/27/2018
HB 5843 of 2018
Marihuana; facilities; chemical extraction of resin from marihuana; prohibit unless licensed. Amends sec. 502 of 2016 PA 281 (MCL 333.27502).
Last Action: 04/24/2018 – bill electronically reproduced 04/19/2018
HB 5844 of 2018
Criminal procedure; sentencing guidelines; sentencing guidelines for unlicensed chemical extraction of resin from marihuana plant; provide for. Amends sec. 13k, ch. XVII of 1927 PA 175 (MCL 777.13k). TIE BAR WITH: HB 5843’18
Last Action: 04/24/2018 – bill electronically reproduced 04/19/2018
HB 5845 of 2018
Marihuana; other; chemical extraction of resin from marihuana plant; prohibit. Amends sec. 7 of 2008 IL 1 (MCL 333.26427).
Last Action: 04/24/2018 – bill electronically reproduced 04/19/2018
April 29, 2018
When the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified on Thursday that the petitions submitted by the Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) contained enough signatures to qualify for the November general election, advocates cheered and cameras rolled. The legalization proposal is just the latest issue keeping marijuana in the hearts of citizens, in the minds of state lawmakers and on the front page of newspapers- but not everything is going according to plan.
THE ADULT USE PROPOSAL
The annual value of legalized and medical marijuana in Michigan has been estimated at one billion dollars. That’s an incredibly powerful incentive for people to change their minds on the issue of recreational marijuana, and Michigan citizens are evolving their attitudes toward cannabis at a record pace.
Polling data from 2018 indicates marijuana legalization enjoys strong support among the state’s voters. In January a poll showed 57% support for an adult use of cannabis law, and in March a poll by NORML of Michigan and the EPIC-MRA research group found 61% support, a record high approval rating.
Thursday’s certification of the cannabis legalization petition submitted by the CRMLA was hailed as a guarantee that the issue will appear on the 2018 Michigan ballot. With favorable polling and no other obstacles, it would seem the adult use issue is going to appear before voters and be a big hit in November.
Not so fast, say Michigan lawmakers.
Republicans are already fearful of the impending ‘Blue Wave’ of Democratic supporters crashing the party at this year’s general election. Rumors began circulating in early April about a plan where Republican lawmakers would legislatively adopt the CRMLA legalization language into law just to stop the ‘Green Wave’ of single-issue cannabis voters from flooding the polls in November.
Michigan law allows for a 40 session day period after Board certification in which the House and Senate can adopt the language as is. If adopted by the legislature, the proposal would not be on the November ballot.
Via this method, the legalization proposal could be passed by a simple majority of the House and Senate. Because it is initiated legislation the cannabis legalization proposal would not be subject to a veto by Governor Snyder.
Still, passing the legalization bill would have to depend on votes from lawmakers who do not normally support the issue. Many of those lawmakers are facing reelection in a few short months, so endorsing a proposal they have been cold to is very risky. Speaker of the House Tom Leonard does not support marijuana legalization nor does he want the legislature to adopt the proposal. “I don’t anticipate it happening. There’s not much support in the caucus for it and I personally do not support it,” the Republican told the Detroit Free Press.
Neither does Macomb County Republican Representative Peter Lucido. “I didn’t go to Lansing to sit around voting pot in,” he told Fox 2 News on April 26. He later added, “The GOP that I sit with don’t think it is a done deal.”
THE GREEN WAVE
Still other lawmakers feel that voting for the legalization proposal would be worth it to keep the issue from dominating the 2018 election conversation. Some simple math illustrates why these powerful elected officials are frightened by the Green Wave.
One pundit estimated that the 2018 election could see up to a 3% increase in voter participation, simply because of the marijuana legalization proposal. In 2014, the last general election featuring a gubernatorial race, 3,156,531 Michiganders cast votes. Current Michigan Governor Rick Snyder narrowly defeated his opponent Mark Schauer in that contest by 128,130 votes.
If in fact the cannabis proposal bumps up electoral turnout by 3%, nearly 95,000 additional voters would be drawn to the polls- almost 3/4 of last contest’s winning margin. Elections are often won by a thin margin; in 2016 Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Michigan’s election by only 10,704 votes.
No wonder the legislature’s Republicans have given serious consideration to voting for the marijuana proposal.
It would be difficult to imagine nearly 100,000 motivated pro-cannabis voters casting ballots in favor of Republican candidates in the state’s top contests. Of the two men most likely to get the nomination as Republican candidate for governor, neither are friendly to marijuana legalization and the odds-on favorite to win the endorsement is a long-term cannabis foe. Bill Schuette was vocally against the medical marijuana proposal in 2008. He was elected to Attorney General shortly after, and his efforts to restrict the new medical program- both overt and subtle- have persisted throughout his tenure.
Tom Leonard is the presumptive nominee to win the Republican endorsement in the race for Attorney General. The other frequently-discussed candidate for the nomination is Senator Tonya Schuitmacker, whose votes on the Senate Judiciary Committee indicate a strong dislike for cannabis liberalization.
Contrast that to the list of Democratic hopefuls for the state’s top nominations, all of whom have come out in favor of marijuana legalization.
It’s a three way race for the Michigan Democratic Party’s nomination for governor. Shri Thanendar, the millionaire longshot candidate, displayed large signs supporting legalized marijuana during the Democratic Convention on April 15. Abdul El-Sayed has won the endorsement of the party’s Progressive Caucus and gave a fiery speech on stage at this year’s Hash Bash. The party’s most likely nominee is Gretchen Whitmer, who also spoke with emotion at the Hash Bash; she has a record of voting for and advocating in favor of cannabis laws during her eight years in the Michigan Senate.
Both of Michigan’s US Senators have declared support for marijuana legalization.
“Senator Peters supports the ballot initiative effort underway in the state to legalize marijuana for recreational use,” a spokesperson told VICE just after the Democratic Convention. Gary Peters has voted in the past for pro-cannabis legislation at a federal level.
Senator Debbie Stabenow is not considered a strong supporter of cannabis issues. Earlier in 2018 NORML issued a national ranking of all Senators and House Representatives based on their Congressional performance; Stabenow received a “D” grade. Her spokesperson, however, sided with the idea of legalization, telling VICE, “It’s time to decriminalize medical and recreational marijuana.”
That is an awkward declaration in itself, since medical marijuana has been decriminalized in Michigan for nearly ten years already. The Stabenow statement may indicate how obligatory it has become for Democrats to profess support for the Green Wave, even if the office holder has no zeal for the topic.
The predicted Green Wave of single-issue cannabis voters would certainly support the candidates in top-of-the-ticket races who have publicly endorsed their favorite topic. At this point in time, that favors the Democrats in a big way.
ATTORNEY GENERAL’S RACE
Nowhere has the impact of the cannabis movement in Michigan been more strongly illustrated than this year’s race for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General.
It was a battle between former prosecutors as Dana Nessel (Wayne County) and Patrick Miles (the federal Western District of Michigan) both claimed experience on the front lines of the Drug War. Nessel adopted a pro-cannabis stance at the onset of her campaign, even including the subject in her launch speech. Miles was initially reluctant to talk about the subject, and when pressed used generic answers that mirrored conservative talking points.
Nessel’s campaign was embraced by cannabis liberalization leaders in the state. The MILegalize organization issued their first-ever candidate endorsement for Nessel, which was greeted with enthusiasm by the cannabis community and was lauded by the campaign. Her unabashed endorsement of the legalization proposal helped to lift her in the polls, and Miles was forced to evolve his public stance on the issue in order to remain competitive. He famously changed his answer in the middle of an interview with Michigan Radio, asking at the end of the segment if he could provide a better “sound-bite” on the subject of asset forfeiture reform.
As a federal prosecutor Miles had pursued charges and secured convictions against a group of men known as the Okemos 7 for actions they engaged in under the protections of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. Miles pursued the case even though a state investigation found no offenses worthy of criminal charges and despite the Obama adminstration’s hands-off approach to state legal cannabis activity.
Cannabis law reform advocates made Miles pay for his actions against the Okemos 7.
Despite a crushing ice storm that froze the entire state north of Oakland County, the Democratic Convention at Detroit’s Cobo Hall on April 15 saw more than 6,700 credentialed members attend– a new record. The convention featured only one vote of the general assembly, and that was for the Attorney General’s nomination.
The roar of the Nessel supporters drown out the best effort by the Miles supporters in hallways and caucus meetings; in the end the vote wasn’t even close.
Just shortly before announcing her run for the A.G. spot Nessel had taken a case of LGBT rights all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Nessel, herself a member of the LGBT community, beat current Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in court and won the case for her clients. On stage during Dana Nessel’s acceptance speech at Cobo Hall were LGBT supporters, cannabis rights advocates and a member of the Okemos 7.
Mainstream media and Nessel herself have credited the cannabis community for lifting the candidate’s pre-Convention polling numbers and inflating attendance at Cobo Hall. These admissions of the power of the cannabis voting bloc in Michigan are part of what drove House and Senate Republicans to consider adopting the CRMLA legalization proposal- but there is another equally compelling indicator of the cannabis industry’s rise to power in Michigan.
THE NEW CANNABIS BUSINESS MARKET
In 2016 the legislature passed a long-suffering group of bills and enacted the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA). This Act moves the nine-year old semi-legal, unregulated patient services industry into a regulated and taxed business program worth an estimated $837 million annually.
On December 15, 2017 the state’s Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation (BMMR) began accepting applications for business licenses in five regulated cannabis industries. The first licenses are expected to be issued in May of 2018; over 80 communities throughout Michigan have passed ordinances opting in to the business program. Constituents are demanding a change in attitude among their elected officials and communities are ramping up for a financial windfall.
Those cannabis-supporting constituents are appearing in the least likely districts, too. The Saginaw Bay Region, for example, has been bereft of support for its medical marijuana patients during the entire medical marijuana era in Michigan. No grey market cannabis dispensary has remained open for long in Midland, Bay or Saginaw Counties. In the NORML of Michigan poll from March, that region showed the highest degree of support for the legalization proposal of any region in the survey- 79%. Communities in Bay County are lining up to benefit from the new cannabis business market as fast as any other county in the state.
The lure of financial gain has brought more converts to the cause of marijuana law reform than the impassioned pleas of the ill ever could. This scenario is common in all states where cannabis laws are being reformed, and that lure has sparked a national explosion of law reform measures in the last few years.
Michigan’s legalization initiative is the top fight on the 2018 American cannabis campaign roster. The undercard is filled with local ordinances, new medical marijuana laws and modifications of existing state programs but Michigan seems to be the only state where voters will decide an adult use of cannabis proposal in 2018. National cannabis law reform figures have been giving the state extra attention because of it.
Some of those events featuring national cannabis industry figures include:
The attention being paid to Michigan’s legalization movement is not all supportive.
Efforts are already underway to counter the power of the cannabis vote in 2018. One strategy involves an aggressive public relations campaign in the lead-up to the November election. A national group has already invested $150,000 to support an anti-legalization group called ‘Healthy and Productive Michigan,’ whose main argument against legalization seems to be that federal law prohibits any form of legitimate cannabis use.
On the Michigan legalization proposal Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana said, “We’re gearing up for a fight.”
Another end-around run on the marijuana legalization proposal could come via the legislature. In this scenario the legalization proposal would pass in November, after which lawmakers would quickly pass a bill to “fix” some of the proposal’s language to make it more business-centric.
The half-dozen weeks between the general election and the end of the two-year legislative cycle is called the lame duck session. It’s called that because any legislator who either lost their election or has retired from their elected office has these few slender days where they can vote any way they want without consequence to themselves or their party. The party in power uses this time to pass unpopular bills, essentially waiting until after the election to do a lot of things they know people will not support.
It would be in this brief window of time that this fix-it scenario would play out. This idea of using the lame duck session to make the proposal more Republican has been advanced in media by powerful party leaders. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said,” We’re asking about it.” Term-limited former Sheriff, Sen. Rick Jones, said he would welcome the opportunity to “perfect the law” in the lame duck session.
This path has a low chance of success, as any amendment to a law enacted through the petition process must receive a 3/4 vote of all House Representatives and Senators. That feat would require Democratic participation. Democratic Senators Coleman A. Young Jr. and Jim Ananich have both spoken out against the idea of legislative meddling with the proposal prior to the election, and are expected to be opposed to legislative meddling after the vote as well.
With billions of dollars at stake and a rapidly-evolving citizen mindset, Michigan is ripe for cannabis law reform efforts in 2018. The MMFLA program, the legalization proposal and the character of the state’s elected officials will keep the subject in the news long after the votes are cast in November and the legislature has dismissed until 2019. Marijuana is the new litmus test for Democratic candidates; cities are becoming dependent upon cannabis industry licensing fees; and Michigan politics will never be the same again.
This blog also appears on The Social Revolution
As we enjoy this fantastic Sunday afternoon, I can’t help but think about how far the cannabis reform movement has come, not only in Michigan, but all across our great nation. In just 191 days, on November 6, 2018, Michigan voters will finally have the opportunity to decide if cannabis should be legal for adults in our state. As a cannabis reform advocate with 10 years under my belt, it’s always nice to savor victory, but I also understand we have to keep grinding out this process all the way up to election day and I hope this blog encourages you to keep your nose to the grindstone as well!
Right now, cannabis advocates, supporters and consumers are celebrating a major milestone, achieving ballot access, and while we revel in our accomplishment, we must remain mindful of the task that still remains in front of us and that is victory at the polls in November!
I’ll admit, right now the situation looks rosy. Voter support for our proposal is up to 60%, we achieved ballot approval without any legal challenge from our opponents, the Board of State Canvassers unanimously approved our proposal and legislators don’t seem to have a plan yet to derail it! Those are all good signs and were the result of hard work, but every campaign is like a rollercoaster ride, they all have ups and downs and twists and turns, and you’re never certain you’re going to make it back to the platform until the car you’re riding in slowly comes to a complete stop and your seatbelt is removed.
And that’s exactly how we should approach the rest of the CRMLA campaign, like a rollercoaster ride. In reality, the coaster left the station in 2002 and for the past 15 years we’ve been twisted and turned inside out sometimes it seems. Today we’ve crested the last big rise and the station is finally in sight, but we have to remember to hold on tight for that last series of twists and turns because they are always the scariest.
There is only one legalization proposal in Michigan and it is directed by the Coalition to Reform Marijuana Like Alcohol. The Coalition is comprised of groups including the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Michigan NORML, MI Legalize, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Patients Rights Association (NPRA), the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, and the Marijuana Law Section of the Michigan State BAR. There will be no other legalization proposal on the 2018 general election ballot!
Unity is critical to accomplishing our mission! All the groups mentioned above must stay unified and maintain respect for each other throughout the campaign if we expect to win. Look what happened in Arizona in 2016. A coalition of groups similar to ours started a campaign to legalize cannabis in that state but ended up losing the election by 57,000 votes. Had just 1% of the no votes been yes votes, cannabis would be legal in Arizona today.
What happened? It’s simple. Arizonia never quite had the voter support our proposal has. The highest percentage of support that proposal ever received was just 50.4% and that was a month away from the election. Support for our proposal currently sits at around 60%. Additionally, the advocacy community there was sharply divided between the business owners and the cannabis community members against those cannabis businesses. In Michigan, we don’t have that dynamic because we currently have very few licensed businesses and they were not capitalized enough to try significantly influence our proposal’s language. In Arizona, opposition groups including Discount Tire, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and other anti-cannabis zealots then capitalized on these small divides and pumped $6.2 million into a robust anti-cannabis media campaign. Those circumstances all combined to result in a very disappointing and expensive loss for cannabis reformers. We can’t let that happen on our watch!
So again, please enjoy this beautiful day, but remember, we still have a big job ahead of us. If we’re going to win and scale back prohibition, we must stay in forward at keep moving at full throttle until November. Please stay respectful of each other, at least for another 191 days! And please donate to the campaign. Donating $20, $50 or $100 is the best thing you can do personally at this point to help! Also, make sure that you and all your friends and family members are registered to vote!
Please, help me win!
As many of you know by now, on January 18, 2018, the Michigan Department of Treasury issued REVENUE ADMINISTRATIVE BULLETIN 2018-2. This document spells out the State’s tax policy regarding new commercial cannabis businesses, patients and caregivers.
Among the conclusions Treasury officials reached and published in that document was the determination by the Department that the implementation of a 6% use tax applied to the price patients pay their caregivers for medical cannabis products was the proper policy. Below is the rationale the Department used to justify this new PATIENT TAX.
The GSTA and UTA exempt the “sale of drugs for human use that can only be legally
dispensed by prescription.” However, this exemption does not apply to the sale, use,
storage, or consumption of marihuana or marihuana-derived products because at the time
of the sale they are not dispensed pursuant to a prescription. Rather, a qualifying patient
presents a registry identification card indicating that a physician has certified that the
patient has a debilitating medical condition.
Essentially, the Treasury Department is saying that because medical cannabis is “recommended” and not “prescribed”, transfers between patients and caregivers are subject to a 6% use tax to be paid by the purchasing patient. They expect patients to add up all their purchases during the course of the year, multiply the total amount they paid their caregiver by 6%, and claim that total on your annual state income tax return.
Well that’s all fine and dandy for the state, but it sucks for patients! And did you even know about this change? Probably not. The Treasury Department didn’t send any announcement of this policy change to patients. The State’s Licensing And Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation (BMMR) failed to issue any new tax policy notification to patients. How were the 300,000 patients who participate in the program supposed to find out about this new tax policy?
There are a lot of questions for policy makers in this state regarding the creation and implementation of this new 6% PATIENT TAX, sadly they don’t feel the need to respond to patient questions. So to make sure that Michigan’s medical cannabis patients are heard on this issue, we have created an email campaign that will assist patients with sending an email to their state legislators and the Director of the Treasury about this important issue.
Next Monday, February 12, 2018, Michigan NORML will begin a campaign to REPEAL THE 6% PATIENT TAX, and we could sure use your help! The only way our legislators will even consider changing this policy is if we, patients and caregivers, flood their offices with calls and emails. Watch for our ACTION ALERTS about this issue and please take 5 minutes to send emails to your legislators and Treasury Director Nick Khouri. We can provide the tools to help you, but it’s really important now that you start helping yourself now. Please send the emails and make the calls, otherwise good people will face tax evasion charges because of this predatory tax policy.
by Rick Thompson, Board Member, Michigan NORML
We live in exciting times. Change is happening all around us, and progress is taking place in areas where marijuana law reform advocates have worked for decades.
Despite federal rumblings of a return to prohibitionist dogma, states continue to charge forward with their own efforts. Vermont legalized the adult use of cannabis by a vote of their legislature, a first for that methodology in the USA. Efforts continue on a national level to correct the Veteran’s Administration policy of willful blindness toward the benefits of cannabis use. Congresspersons are sponsoring legislation to champion the cause at a pace never-before seen.
Consider Michigan as a microcosm of the American scene.
The Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) continues to move forward without heed to Jeff Sessions and his upset stomach over states rights. More cities are opting in to the brand-new business program of cultivating and distributing cannabis in Michigan to the 300,000 state-registered patients. Legislators are sponsoring bills aimed at correcting the evils of the Drug War, including the most un-American practice of civil asset forfeiture.
In the streets we are winning the war of information. Polling data suggests that legalization of cannabis for adults enjoys a near-60% level of approval from the citizenry. Citizens in Detroit voted in favor of a pair of proposals last November which corrected some issues with their medical marijuana distribution licensing policy. Any meeting of any city council anywhere in the state is attended by vocal supporters of medical or recreational programs for cannabis. The fear of retribution for saying pro-marijuana things has faded.
Our candidates are the most pro-cannabis group of potential leaders we have seen since cannabis prohibition put a choke hold on America. All the major Democrats are supporting cannabis law reform, some to a greater degree and some merely because it is expected of them (and we know who you fakers are). Republicans seeking the Governorship and the Attorney General’s spot in Michigan have come out in support of the medical marijuana program. A few even speak positively about the possibility of a legalized adult use program in the Great Lakes State.
Our organizations have led the charge toward this new common understanding about the benign nature of cannabis use. Michigan NORML is the state’s oldest and longest-running cannabis rights advocacy group, and it is led by some of the state’s most storied advocates. Former groups including the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers, The Human Solution, NPRA, and the short-lived Michigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access all played a role in the evolution of thought in the state, but none are active in a real sense any more. Legalization groups Repeal Today (2012), MILegalize 2016 and MILegalize 2018 have all helped normalize the concept of an adult use program.
Challenges are still there. Chameleon politicians are waiting to be elected before showing their true colors. National interests will meddle in our election process to prevent the MILegalize/CRMLA 2018 ballot proposal from being approved for the ballot and being approved by the voters. Some communities are still not on board with the medical marijuana business environment created by the legislature. Some law enforcement officials are still living in a 1985 mind frame. There is work to be done.
Be a part of the change. Join us.
On Tuesday, February 6, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on HB 4158, a bill that would require a criminal conviction before members of law enforcement could seize, keep and/or liquidate property siezed in connection with an alleged crime.
I’ve been in contact with the sponsor of this bill, Rep. Peter Lucido, and he is seeking people who have had their property seized by overzealous members of law enforcement. He would especially like to hear from people who have had assets forfeited and who were never charged with any crime!
Rep. Lucido’s bill bans seizures where the victim was never charged with any crime and forces cops and prosecutors to obtain a conviction before they can keep a person’s possessions.
If you have been an asset forfeiture victim and you would like to tell our legislators your story, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop a comment below.
Thanks folks, and stay safe!!!
On Friday, January 26, 2018, the Secretary of State issued the statement below with regard to the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. This statement indicates that an initial review of our petition forms and signatures has passed muster and will be permitted to continue. This statement also provides that, “the deadline to submit challenges to this petition will elapse at 5:00 p.m. on February 9, 2018”.
What that means is, the proposal looks good so far, the Secretary of State has reviewed some of our forms and signatures, and now our opponents have until February 9, 2018, to challenge our proposal in court. That’s how the process works.
We don’t have any reliable information that any specific person or group plans to challenge our petition in court, but it wouldn’t be surprising. The Michigan Responsibility Council, which calls itself “Michigan’s premier cannabis association committed to educating, promoting and advancing the study of legitimate use of cannabis health care”, is funding an opposition group called The Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools, and Scott Greenlee, President of Healthy and Productive Michigan, who is quoted in Metro Times as saying, “If an individual were on a street having one marijuana cigarette, those folks are just not arrested.” You can read more about Greenlee’s group here.
I don’t know if these people are naive or just plain mean-spirited, but they are wrong with their alternative-facts, they are wrong morally, but they have access to money and we shouldn’t underestimate what they might be capable of doing.
Here is the original pdf document.
January 26, 2018
An initiative petition proposing to authorize the personal possession and use of marihuana by individuals aged 21 years and older and control the commercial production and distribution of marihuana, was filed with the Secretary of State on November 20, 2017 by the Coalition to Regulate Marihuana Like Alcohol.
The Board of State Canvassers has established a uniform deadline for challenging signatures sampled from an initiative, constitutional amendment or referendum petition to elapse at 5:00 p.m. on the 10th business day after copies of the sampled signatures are made available to the public. (See minutes of November 8, 2013 meeting of the Board of State Canvassers.)
Please be advised that copies of the signatures sampled from this initiative petition were made available for release to the public on January 25, 2018. Therefore, the deadline to submit challenges to this petition will elapse at 5:00 p.m. on February 9, 2018.
Please contact the Bureau of Elections at (517) 373-2540 if you wish to purchase a copy of the sampled signatures for the petition.