Pot fest heads to Michigan
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 said.
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 said.
Thursday night’s high-dollar fund-raiser at the Polo Fields Golf Country Club in Ann Arbor already has sold about 100 tickets, Hovey said.
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“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 marijuana.
- 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.
Contact Bill Laitner: firstname.lastname@example.org