BY MADI TORTORA
The race to legalize both medical and non-medical, also known as “personal use,” marijuana in Michigan has been set at full speed recently. Several groups, including MILegalize and the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, have set a new standard for petitions when it comes to legalization.
“There has been a general lack of respect for medical marijuana laws across the state,” said Jamie Lowell, a board member for MILegalize and the co-founder of the Third Coast Compassion Center in Ypsilanti. “There is a need to have more clarity and a more substantial policy that really would help to protect people and offer another clear message that people are okay with cannabis being legal and regulated in the state.” These petitions state a clear approach to the legalization of marijuana and its multiple uses.
The two groups have slightly differing approaches, but each are representing the fight to legalize marijuana in Michigan in a way that hasn’t necessarily been seen before. The MILegalize petition brings up the issue of hemp, and advocates for the possession, cultivation, and processing of hemp and products made from hemp.
The Michigan Cannabis Coalition discusses, in it’s language, the creation of an independent board that is staffed by experts in the field of agriculture and the public in general. Both MILegalize and the Michigan Cannabis Coalition have had a clear stance on the taxation of marijuana, which will contribute to things like education, public safety, roads, and transportation.
“This would be the best, most comprehensive, and free-market oriented approach yet,” Lowell said. “So our petition is an evolution of what has happened before and where the consciousness of the people is now, and would be a trailblazer for states for legalization.”
MILegalize believes in putting an end to this investor driven model that is so common in petitions to legalize marijuana. This trend, referred to as “Big Money,” uses only a limited number of distributorships around the state, and essentially form oligopolies that control the entire market. This was one of the main reasons voters in Ohio rejected legalization, according to Lowell.
Support for legalization has grown over the past several years, and approximately 53 percent of Americans believe that it should be legalized, according to the Pew Research Center.
“Americans have rights, and these rights are inherent and unalienable,” said Chuck Ream, member of MILegalize’s board of directors. “Your relationship with nature is an unalienable right.”
Although that is the majority, there are still groups in each state that advocate against the legalization of personal use marijuana. Michigan’s attorney general Bill Schuette has made comments about his stance on legalization in multiple interviews, and stands by his ideals.
“We should not go down this road of legalizing drugs,” Schuette said to Lansing Television station WILX a few years ago. “It exposes young kids, children, to ever more potent drug use, and I think that’s not good for them in the future.” Many opposers of the legalization of cannabis become potentially worried, because legalization may make it easier for younger people to get ahold of drugs. Even with the petition stating that people must be 21 or older to possess marijuana, there is no way to be certain that this will be upheld.
Many voters in certain cities in Michigan have already voted for the decriminalization of marijuana — including Ann Arbor. Quite a few states, including Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Washington DC have even gone so far as to fully legalize it, although it still remains illegal under federal law.
“Michigan is ready to legalize,” Ream said. “Washtenaw County has been a laboratory for Michigan, with this whole concept of dispensaries, and legalization, and have you heard anyone complaining?”
Needing 80,000-90,000 more signatures to get to the full 253,000 they need to put their petition on the Nov. 2016 ballot, MILegalize’s comprehensive, free-market oriented approach seems to appeal to many people in the area. The goal of MILegalize specifically is to see a major difference in the amount of jobs and business opportunities brought to Ann Arbor, a drop in crime rate due to law enforcement focusing more on crime and having more time and money to do so, and the addition of revenue to the government with the help of taxes going up to a projected 200 million to go to the state, explained Ream.
Lowell shows appreciation to the states that have already announced full legalization.
“They really helped us let citizens know that legalization can happen and the sky won’t fall, and children won’t spontaneously implode,” Lowell said. “The activity happens anyway, let’s just try and take some control of it and benefit everybody.”