It is a very good thing that the Michigan state legislature declined to legalize marijuana last week.
That may seem a bit strange for someone who supports legalization to say, but there was some anxiety among supporters of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act when it looked like the Republican-led legislature was going to legalize recreational use of marijuana. That particular move was considered a tactic to undercut provisions in the proposal that will be on the ballot this November — for instance, home grows or the 10-ounce possession limit for adults.
It was also considered a move to keep marijuana supporters away from the polls, who might vote Democrat on other issues, such as for governor. And let us not forget a remedy for gerrymandering, that could threaten the Republican hold on state politics, was also elevated to the ballot by a petition initiative. All in all it could be a very interesting election this fall.
Whatever folks thought of the alleged legislative move, it is now a moot point. Voters will decide if marijuana is to be legal in the state of Michigan. While the Senate was all lined up and ready to move on legalization, the House couldn't pull enough votes together. Was it because at heart they believed it was up to voters to decide? Or was it because they hate marijuana so much they couldn't bring themselves to vote for legalization even as a ploy to undermine the law as written in the proposal?
Or was it another stalling tactic while they wait for something terrible and awful to be found out about marijuana (in the next five months) to save them from the evil weed at the last minute? That's the "we need to know more" stall, which is really the "we haven't found anything wrong with it... yet" stall.
It's not likely that some new unsavory information about marijuana is going to crop up at the last minute. Things look good for the legalization proposal considering positive polls and the public's record for saying yes to marijuana when they vote.
Healthy and Productive Michigan is the biggest organization working to prevent recreational legalization. It's active, aligned with national groups fighting marijuana, and trying to be the flashpoint for the opposition. As its name indicates, the organization's line is that marijuana causes people to be unhealthy and unproductive. They're peddling the fear that kids will be getting their hands on marijuana, the roads will be full of drugged drivers, and that this new "crack" marijuana isn't the same peace and love stuff they smoked at Woodstock.
We'll see where that goes.
One of the biggest issues that the prohibition crowd never seems to address is the fact that marijuana is already here and available to almost anyone. After 81 years of prohibition and 38 years of the War on Drugs marijuana is bigger than ever before. There are billboards advertising places to get it. Imagine the police pulling someone over and asking where they got their marijuana, and that person pointing at the big sign.
So that is the point prohibitionists need to address. Nothing they have done — nothing — has come anywhere close to stopping the marijuana train. Anybody who wants to get some marijuana can get some. An unregulated black market will not keep marijuana away from the kids. Maybe a regulated market will help.
That's up to the voters in November — and that is progress. There was a day not so long ago when there was no discussion of marijuana, period, in the public forum. Now it's being decided in an election, the ultimate public forum.
Meanwhile, at the MMMLB...
The Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board has been making a mess out of the licensing process for the five classes of facilities allowed. Last week the board announced that the June 15 deadline for unlicensed facilities to close is moved back to Sept. 15. That came after board spokesperson David Harns told me the deadline would not be moved back. He also told me that the first licenses could be granted at the board's June 11 meeting. That meeting has been postponed.
Michigan's medical marijuana law passed in 2008. The facilities licensing act passed in 2016, and not a single facility has been licensed as of now. The Ohio state legislature passed medical marijuana legislation in June 2016. Dispensaries have already been licensed and the system is expected to be up and operating in September. It didn't take them that long to pull it together.
What's the big holdup in Michigan? Could it be that folks in the licensing world really don't want to have a fully operational system? Well, yes. Board member Donald Bailey is a retired state trooper and he is still fighting the War on Drugs from his pulpit: He advocated to have dispensaries shut down last September.
"It's a felony for every sale that occurs from a dispensary," Bailey said while pushing the proposal that was tabled by the rest of the board. This is from a guy who is tasked with setting up the system. He can't stop the marijuana train from rolling, but he can certainly send it down some side tracks along the way.
For instance, the board is still playing mind games with dispensary owners about whether it will hold it against them for being open for business before licenses are granted. The last we heard was maybe they will, maybe they won't. Reportedly numerous dispensaries declined to participate in the High Times Cannabis Cup in Clio this past weekend due to the fear that state marijuana officials would be noting who was there — and possibly holding it against them.
Apparently all the paranoia of those involved in the marijuana black market is now tossed on those trying their best to do legal business.
If Michigan legalizes marijuana this year, it will crack the nut for marijuana in Midwest states. Recreational marijuana legalization has mostly been a West Coast and northeast phenomenon with nine states and the district of Columbia choosing to overthrow prohibition. Neighboring province Ontario will be peddling the stuff soon. That should impact folks in the U.S. Midwest.
Detroit opts in
Finally, someone in the city of Detroit government has come up with a plan to opt in to the state medical marijuana licensing system. Councilman James Tate submitted a new plan that caps dispensaries at 75 locations and allows for licensing for growing, processing, and testing facilities in addition to transport companies. The 1,000-foot separation of dispensaries from schools, day care centers, liquors stores, parks, churches, and other dispensaries holds.
Tate has been out front on this issue partly because the anti-marijuana organizations are centered in his district. I give him credit (and also have a phone call in to him) for taking it up even though I don't agree with the way it has played out. Nobody else on city council or the mayor's office seems to have much to say about it.
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