New marijuana ballot proposal try under way

A ballot measure to legalize recreational use of marijuana was launched for Michigan last week. Before signature gatherers descend, now is the time to become informed about what the proposal would do.

A new effort to place legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes on the state ballot, perhaps as early as November, was launched last week. Coordinated by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a ballot drive started Friday to gather about 252,000 signatures needed to qualify for a statewide vote, the Associated Press reported. In terms of process, the Michigan Board of Canvassers must first approve the ballot language before actual signatures can be collected.

“Our country’s marijuana prohibition laws have failed miserably,” effort spokesman John Truscott told AP. He said arresting 20,000 nonviolent offenders a year in the state of Michigan for marijuana possession and cultivation is a waste of taxpayers’ money. “This initiative would make Michigan a leader in responsible adult-use marijuana laws, while also creating an entirely new industry and generating badly needed tax revenue for our state.”

We expect proposal proponents to key on two basic issues: That marijuana, consumed in reasonable amounts, is no more harmful than alcohol; and legalization for recreational use will generate vast sums of money that can be put to use for the greater good.

According to AP, if the proposal would go on the ballot as it currently reads, adults 21 and over could legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants in their residence. Public consumption and driving under the influence of the drug would be illegal. A 10 percent tax on marijuana would be assessed, in addition to the 6 percent sales tax. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be generated for K-12 schools and road construction projects. The proposal is complicated, with additional language addressing marijuana businesses and growing operations.

We realize that the majority of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized for recreational use. Although one Gallup poll put the support number at 60 percent, other polls have pegged it even higher. It’s unclear what percentage of Michigan residents support legalization for recreational use. Voters in Michigan voted approval for medical marijuana in 2008.

Marijuana currently resides on Schedule I of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, along with nasty drugs like heroin and cocaine, something even many police officers think is ridiculous. But because arresting and locking up pot offenders is big business in the U.S. — think cars, guns, equipment, training, personnel, privately run prisons — we don’t anticipate any changes there. There’s just too much money being made by too many people with connections to all the right places in Washington for anything to change.

And it will still be against federal law, even if the Michigan ballot proposal is approved.

We think recreational legalization will happen in Michigan. It’s only a matter of time. Residents should research the proposal now, before someone asks them to sign a petition.