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Pro-Pot Group Aims For $8 Million to Fund Legalization Effort in 2018


Undaunted by failure in 2016, advocates see 2018 as the year Michigan will legalize adult-use of marijuana. There is money behind the initiative, momentum from other states that have ended pot prohibition, and polling that suggests the people are is ready to “legalize it.”

Behind the new drive is the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., organization instrumental in Michigan's approval of medical marijuana in 2008. It drafted the proposed 2018 voter initiative and created a statewide pro-legalization committee, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which hopes to raise $8 million for the drive, said its spokesman, Josh Hovey.

The coalition is proposing a comprehensive package of regulations titled the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. Yes, that is how the state of Michigan officially spells marijuana.

The legalization initiative requires 252,523 valid signatures to place it on the 2018 ballot. And because it's an initiative, not a constitutional amendment, the Legislature could override the measure with a three-fourths vote of both houses.

According to the Coalition, key provisions of the 6500-plus-word initiative draft would:

— Legalize the possession, cultivation, and use of cannabis and industrial hemp.

— Protect consumers with regulations that mandate testing and accurate labeling.

— Tax marijuana at the wholesale level in addition to the standard state sales tax. Half of the excise taxes will be used to make community colleges and vocational schools more affordable for Michigan residents. The other half will be directed to local governments that allow marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions.

— Give people convicted of a non-violent marijuana crime a path to clear their criminal record.

“The trend across the country shows that the country increasingly accepts marijuana use both for medical and recreational use,” Hovey said.

“More and more people understand that prohibition is a failed policy. It doesn't make sense to arrest 20,000 people in Michigan each year for possession and growing marijuana.”

Outlined within the proposal are measures that would:

— Allow people to grow their own, up to 12 plants at their primary residence.

— Prohibit retailers from selling to anyone age-21 and under from using marijuana and any consumption in public places.

— Establish requirements and standards for cultivation, processing, testing, packaging, labeling and related items.

— Except for determining age, prohibits requirements retailers from requiring customer identification.

— Establish licensing for retailers, growers, transporters and other enterprises in the marijuana business.

— Give current marijuana business early consideration for adult-use sales.

Advocates attempted to place a legalization measure on the 2016 ballot. They gathered 354,00 signatures (253,000 were needed), but were sabotaged by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder, who signed a rush-job bill invalidating petition signatures more than 180 days old.

But the push for decriminalization in Michigan is undeniable and growing.

Polling in January and February by Epic-MRA found that 57 percent of 600 people surveyed favor legalization and trending higher. In 2013, only 47 percent of those surveyed favored legalization, said Epic's President Bernie Porn. If it is on the ballot, he expects it to pass and attract unprecedented numbers of younger voters, 70 percent of whom favor legalization, he said.


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