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Medical Marijuana Overhaul May Not Head To Michigan Ballot

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It’s looking less likely that there will be a ballot question in November to overhaul Michigan’s medical marijuana system.  

A group that was expected to pursue a ballot question in 2016 to create legal protections and strict regulations for dispensaries - among other things - says it’s not pursuing a petition drive right now.  The Michigan Responsibility Council (MRC) said last year that it would start collecting signatures in 2016. That’s if lawmakers failed to pass bills to that effect by then.  “But things have changed, frankly,” said MRC Chairman Paul Welday.

Welday says he’s still confident lawmakers will approve the bills, which would also allow patients to use non-smokable forms of cannabis, such as baked goods.  Supporters of that measure say patients - especially children and people with respiratory issues - should not have to smoke marijuana to get its medicinal benefits.   “It is a problem that needs to be addressed. The legislation goes a long way in doing that. And so we think that ought to have every chance to succeed before we declare one approach over and done with,” he said.  “We’re going to have to watch and work with the Legislature over the course of the next few weeks when they return to see if there is a solution in store, if there’s a consensus around the bills that are currently in front of the Michigan Senate.”

The bills have been stalled in a state Senate committee for months. Critics, including many caregivers and patient groups, oppose the dispensary legislation because they say the regulations would drive up the cost of medical marijuana products, making them unaffordable for many patients.

Welday says the group could still pursue a ballot campaign this year.  He says MRC would have to decide by mid-February whether to collect signatures to get on the November ballot.  But he says the group could also consider going to the ballot after 2016.  Three other groups are working to put recreational marijuana legalization on the ballot this year.   

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— Jake Neher is the State Capitol Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at

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