Pubdate: Tue, 11 Jul 2017
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2017 Detroit Free Press
Author: Bill Laitner


Could Michigan be next to legalize marijuana? The stars are aligning,
say fans of legal cannabis.

After a flubbed effort last year, supporters of marijuana legalization
in Michigan can celebrate reaching a milestone at a posh $250-a-plate
fund-raiser Thursday night.

Their new petition drive has gathered 100,000 signatures in just six
weeks, putting the campaign well ahead of schedule and giving leaders
reason to believe that this year's petition drive will manage to put
the legalization question on Michigan ballots, spokesman Josh Hovey

Those who want marijuana to be fully legal in Michigan are racing to
collect 252,523 valid signatures within a tight 180-day time frame,
according to a ruling issued last year by the Michigan Secretary of
State. It was enforced by multiple court rulings.

Even though legalization supporters gathered well over the required
number of signatures last year, they missed doing so within the time
frame, an issue they're still contesting in federal court.

But no matter the outcome of the case, and it could take years to
settle, this year's campaign group -- called the Coalition to Regulate
Marijuana Like Alcohol -- is determined to gather plenty of signatures
in time to put a legalization question on Michigan ballots in November
2018, Hovey said.

"The support we are seeing across the state has been fantastic," he

Thursday night's high-dollar fund-raiser at the Polo Fields Golf &
Country Club in Ann Arbor already has sold about 100 tickets, Hovey

Marijuana licensing board members must disclose their finances - but
what will be public?

"I think that shows that we're not just a bunch of people sitting
around in drum circles and smoking weed," he said. The campaign is
getting calls, e-mails and contributions every day "from people who
understand that marijuana prohibition is a massive failure and asking
where they can sign our petitions," Hovey said Tuesday.

"If we can keep up this momentum, we will have all signatures in four
months rather than the six months required by state law," he said.
According to the group's campaign materials, the ballot proposal would:

* Legalize personal possession, cultivation and use of limited amounts
of marijuana for adults 21 and older.

* License marijuana businesses that cultivate, process, test,
transport and sell marijuana.

* Require testing and safety regulations for retail

* Tax marijuana sold by retail shops with a 10% excise tax and 6%
sales tax, with revenues to be split among public schools, road repair
and local governments.

Opponents have said that legalizing marijuana would cause increases in
crime, traffic accidents, drug addiction and other social issues. But
supporters countered that such problems have not been evident in
Colorado and other states with fully legal marijuana.

Instead, those states have reported reaping tax revenues in the
millions -- and even tens of millions -- of dollars per month. The
State of Nevada, which began allowing marijuana sales on July 1,
collected an estimated $1 million in sales tax revenues on marijuana
in the new law's first four days, according to an industry estimate
cited in USA TODAY.

Some support for legalizing marijuana in Michigan comes from those who
hope to profit from growing, processing and selling it, said Jeff
Irwin, a former state representative from Ann Arbor who planned to be
at Thursday's fund-raiser. Others are believers because marijuana has
helped alleviate their physical and mental ailments, said Irwin, now
the political director of the coalition group.

"But for a lot of folks, myself included, it's philosophical. I've
always been a believer that prohibition (of marijuana) is not just
inefficient and wasteful, it's also un-American" because it curtails
freedom, Irwin said.
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