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Michigan residents vote to legalize recreational marijuana

Alexander Sinn • Nov 7, 2018 at 9:00 AM

It was a clean sweep for three proposals on the state ballot Tuesday, cementing the creation of a new industry and amendments to the Michigan Constitution.

Proposals to legalize recreational marijuana, create an independent commission of citizens to decide districts and make voting easier were all approved by voters.

Proposition 1

The proposition to legalize recreational marijuana received 56 percent support. 

Individuals age 21 and older will be able to carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana flower and 15 grams of concentrate, including up to 10 ounces and 12 plants at home.

The state’s current 3 percent tax on medical marijuana will go away, replaced with a 10 percent rate for non-medical marijuana.

It will remain illegal to carry marijuana on federal property or K-12 school campuses, or to ship marijuana through the U.S. Postal Service.

Jamie Cooper, founder of Grand Haven-based business that provides consultation for the marijuana industry, was nervous but optimistic on Tuesday, as she attended a gathering with the organizers who got the initiative on the ballot.

Cooper campaigned in Michigan to get a similar proposal on the ballot in 2016, after she moved from Colorado in 2014. Cooper said she hopes a culture change will follow legalization with wider acceptance of marijuana use after what she said has been a long journey.

“I have met a ton of people in our community that use cannabis recreationally, but they will never admit it to the people they know,” Cooper said. “I really look forward to seeing the negative stigma go away. I saw it happen in Colorado and can’t wait to see it happen here.”

Business like hers, which doesn’t deal directly with marijuana, will be necessary to facilitate a new industry, Cooper said.

Legal possession of marijuana will go into effect 10 days after votes are certified by the state of Michigan, but the sale of recreational marijuana will likely not go into effect until spring 2020 as the state prepares a new licensing system.

Law enforcement officials and local government bodies have come out in opposition to the initiative, citing an increase in enforcement and increased accessibility for minors to what many describe as a “gateway drug.”

The Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven-Spring Lake-Ferrysburg took a stand against the proposal, saying it would be a determinant to the local business community.

The Grand Haven City Council passed a resolution encouraging voters to vote “no,” while Grand Haven Township discussed banning the sale of marijuana.

Municipalities have the ability to ban the sale of marijuana, but possession will be legal across the state. Marijuana can be delivered across county lines.

Proposition 2

Proposition 2 creates an independent commission of citizens to draw the state’s district lines, aiming to eliminate political gerrymandering.

It was supported by about 60 percent of Michigan voters.

The commission will enlist 13 citizens to meet after each 10-year Census, including four Republican-affiliated, four Democrat-affiliated and five independent members.

“With Michigan’s proposal, you really are not going to end up with stark-raving partisan ideologues on the commission,” Grand Valley State University political science professor Whitt Kilburn told the Grand Haven Tribune in September. “You end up with people who identify with a party, but not in a way that seems overtly or overly partisan.”

California implemented a similar commission structure in 2008, which Kilburn said reduced the pro-Democratic bias previously drawn in the state’s districts.

The commission will be overseen by the Michigan Secretary of State. Partisan officeholders and candidates, their employees, certain relatives and lobbyists are prohibited from serving on the commission.

Proposal 3

The proposal to make voting easier and more accessible was on pace to pass with 66 percent of the vote Tuesday night. 

The proposition amends the Michigan Constitution by allowing voters to become automatically registered when applying for, updating or renewing a driver’s license or state-issued ID, and register to vote with proof of residency and obtain a ballot during the two-week period prior to an election -- up to and on Election Day.

Voters can get an absentee ballot without providing a reason, and straight-ticket voting would again be available for partisan elections, overruling a Republican law that banned the option.

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