- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2018

Michigan state election officials moved Thursday to let voters decide in November whether to legalize the possession and sale of recreational marijuana.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers unanimously voted 4-0 in favor of certifying signatures submitted by marijuana legalization advocates who hoped to secure a spot on the Nov. 6 ballot, effectively guaranteeing their placement unless the Legislature rejects the measure or offers a competing proposal in the next six months.

If approved by voters in the fall, Michigan stands to become the 10th state in the nation and first in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana in spite of the plant’s status as a federally prohibited Schedule 1 controlled substance.

Michigan also stands to financially benefit if the ballot measure passes, according to its backers, and proponents have predicted that the measure may result in Michigan selling nearly $1 billion worth of retail weed annually, potentially earning the state hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of revenue through a 10 percent pot tax to be assessed on top of the existing 6 percent state sales tax.

“This November, Michigan voters will finally get the chance to eliminate Michigan’s outdated marijuana laws,” said John Truscott, a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a committee formed to support the ballot measure. “Just like with alcohol, it is clear that prohibition doesn’t work and that regulation and taxation is a far better solution,” he said in a statement.

Opponents of the measure argue that legalizing recreational marijuana conflicts with federal law, however, and some critics have cautioned against permitting the plant pending any further decisions from the Department of Justice.

“By putting this on the ballot, you’re disregarding federal law,” said Scott Greenlee, the executive director of the Healthy and Productive Michigan, a political action committee that opposed the proposal. “I recognize that other states have done it, but like my mom always told me, ‘Just because your friends jump off a bridge, doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing.’

“We’re picking and choosing which laws to follow and that’s no way to live,” Mr. Greenlee told the Detroit Free Press, the newspaper reported Thursday.

Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., passed laws allowing the use of medical marijuana, including Michigan in 2008. Only nine have enacted laws legalizing recreational marijuana, however, and only six of those currently have systems in place permitting retail weed sales.

Michigan’s law, if approved, would let adults 21 and older possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, grow up to 12 plants at home and impose rudimentary rules for taxing the plant and allocating associated fees.

The Obama administration advised the Justice Department in 2013 against pursuing marijuana convictions in states that permit the plant, but President Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, rescinded those protections in January.

Sixty-three percent of U.S. voters support federally legalizing marijuana, and 70 percent oppose the Justice Department enforcing existing anti-weed laws, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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