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Michigan cannabis advocates on Friday submitted petition language to the Secretary of State’s office, setting up a summer signature drive and a potential 2018 ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.

Lead by example

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Legalizing and taxing weed sales could raise more than $200 million a year for state and local governments, while cutting costs for law enforcement, according to the Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, reports The Detroit News.

Because Michigan was the state that led this nation out of alcohol prohibition, we think Michigan can be one of the states that leads this country out of cannabis prohibition. – Jeff Irwin,coalition director  of Ann Arbor, a former state legislator

The state could do exactly that “by developing a set of rules that not only ends the foolishness of this failed policy, but also breaks the black market,” Irwin said.

The legalization proposal would tax retail cannabis sales at 10 percent. Seventy percent of the resulting revenue would fund K-12 schools and road repairs. The rest would be divided between cities and counties that choose to allow marijuana businesses. Cities and counties would have the option of banning pot shops.

The tax rate, which is lower than in early drafts of the legalization proposal, would put Michigan in the middle of the pack compared to the eight other states that have already legalized recreational cannabis sales, according to Irwin. A lower tax rate is more effective at discouraging continued black market sales, he said.

The petition drive is expected to start later this month after a review from the Board of State Canvassers. It would be the second such effort two years in Michigan. Another group didn’t collect enough signatures in the state-mandated 180-day window to qualify for last year’s ballot.

MMP backed

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But the Marijuana Policy Project is backing the new coalition. MPP has helped organize successful legalization drives in other states. The committee expects to raise more than $8 million to pay petition circulators and run the statewide ballot campaign.

The cost of that campaign could depend on how much organized opposition emerges, according to Irwin. Some cops have already come out against the legalization plan. Cannabis of course also remains illegal at the federal level.

Attorney General Bill Schuette has spent his career opposing marijuana at every opportunity, including hindering safe access for the state’s medicinal cannabis patients. He led the campaign against Michigan’s medical marijuana law, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2008.

But Schuette, a conservative Republican from Midland, didn’t say he’d actively fight the legalization proposal if it qualifies for next year’s ballot. That may be because he also could appear on that ballot running for governor. Schuette can read the polls.

Putting more pressure on families, more drugs at the hands of children, I personally don’t think that’s a correct way to go. But every citizen will get the chance to vote, and that’s what democracy’s about, right? That’s my attitude. – Schuette

The attorney general is, of course, ignoring the fact that it’s easier for kids to buy pot in a black market scenario than under legalization. Yep, dude’s definitely running for governor.

The proposal would actually limit access to children by moving cannabis sales off the streets and into stores, according to supporters. Only adults 21 and older could purchase legal weed. Public consumption wouldn’t be allowed.

This will end the arrest of thousands of people every year, stop wasting taxpayer dollars on unnecessary law enforcement and bring marijuana out of the shadows, into a regulated marketplace where we can control it and make sure that people are using it responsibly. – Josh Hovey, coalition spokesman

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Steve Elliott

Editor/Publisher at Toke Signals
Steve Elliott has been a journalist since 1974, has been trained on how to do that since 1982, and has worked the cannabis beat since 2007. Elliott is the author of The Little Black Book of Marijuana. He runs the blog TokeSignals.com.
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