Recently several us on the board of commissioners wanted to go on the record as being against the ballot initiative that would change the legal status of marijuana. Though none have spoken favorably to this ballot issue, it was brought to our attention that according to the campaign finance law a legislative body can spend no public funds on advocating on either side of a ballot issue. Technically, an elected body may pass a resolution giving a joint opinion of the group, but it is unclear if making the information available (as all other official actions are required to be filed) is counted as “expending money.” Individual elected officials are completely free to give their own opinion as long as it is clear that they are speaking for themselves and not on behalf the board of which they are a part.
There are two types of ballot issues. Some are legislative acts and others are constitutional amendments. If they are legislative, they are more detailed and can only be changed by a 2/3rds vote of both houses (as was done some time after the medical marijuana ballot issue was passed).
This year, there are two ballot issues that have brought the most attention to themselves: the decriminalization of marijuana; and the proposal that would change the rules for drawing the districts for US representatives to Washington and the state senators and representatives to Lansing.
In this article, I will speak to the key provisions of the so- called “recreational marijuana” proposal. This is a legislative initiative that will have the force of law as soon as it is approved.
Marijuana is like cigarettes in that it may be smoked and it is a hard habit to break. It is like alcohol in that drunkenness and being stoned makes certain activities, such as driving while under the influence, dangerous. It is like hard drugs because of its present illegal status and because it “fogs” the mind and is addicting.
There are several things this law will not change. Smoking of marijuana in public or in vehicles is not allowed. Its stated purpose is to work against the illegal (unlicensed) sale of marijuana. Marijuana will still be illegal federally. Licensed marijuana facilities will not be in residential areas or near schools.
The biggest change will be that advertising will be allowed, marijuana stores will be in many communities, and perhaps the most significant change will be the ready availability of marijuana edibles (products infused with the active ingredients of marijuana).
Please note that the word “recreational” is only used twice in the bill when referring to recreational vehicles. This word is the wrong word to use when referencing this bill. It is a clever way to make marijuana look normal and harmless.
The bill would allow locations that would be licensed “adult” stores to sell and consume “legal” marijuana products and accessories (along with any other products to make a profit) in places where no one under 21 is allowed. A 10% tax is added to marijuana sales in addition to other taxes but increased revenue does not alter the negative effects of likely- increased marijuana use at all levels and ages.
Landlords may eliminate smoking of marijuana in a building they own, but possession of marijuana or the eating of marijuana-infused products must be allowed in all leased properties.
Smoking of marijuana is still not allowed in public or in cars, boat, and recreational vehicles in public ways, but possession of marijuana in all forms is allowed in these vehicles if in the proper container. All but the drivers of these vehicles may partake in “eating” consumable marijuana.
There are several confusing provisions. Marijuana cannot be grown in public view…. unless it is in a “secured” enclosure (a locked chain linked fence?).
An employer will (supposedly) be able to continue his current drug policy but this proposed law only allows dismissal for being “under the influence” while at work.
There is no limit on the number of licenses that the “department” may issue and all licenses that fulfill all of the requirements of the law must be issued. On the other hand, after 24 months some limits that seem to be necessary are to be considered. Which reading will be enforced?
The medical marijuana law was passed by the vote of the people of the state, but local townships had to opt in if they wanted to welcome growers and medical marijuana “stores”. If you look on the map of places where you can legally buy marijuana, you will find that in practice there are very few locations in the whole state that “opened their arms” to legal medical marijuana.
This legislation makes denial of marijuana much more difficult. Townships or municipalities can only refuse marijuana growers, processors, places of sales, etc. by a vote of the people initiated ONLY by the petition of the voters of the affected area.
If you don’t want a marijuana business in your town, you will at sometime have to vote no. It is one thing to allow liberty to another, but when it becomes a bother to you it is quite another story.
Even if this passes, marijuana will still be illegal in Michigan because of federal law. The ballot language provides that all laws (state and local) that contradict this proposal are null and void. However, it is also very clear that it does not displace any applicable federal laws.
No money from a marijuana transaction may legally be put in a federally-regulated bank. The obvious question is “Will the State of Michigan be able to bank ‘illegal’ money?” If not, the state will have to receive a pile of cash and will have to find ways to safely secure and account for that cash that will likely find ways to “walk away.” The security of this loose cash will be problematic with every movement of product within the marijuana empire.
The way you vote on this is a personal decision. It is neither republican nor democrat, conservative or liberal. It is a matter of judgment. How will this affect your family, your community and your state? I hope this information helps you. Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend.
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