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In The Public Interest: Proposal 1- Legalizing Personal Use Of Marijuana In Michigan

League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area
Lisa Barry
89.1 WEMU

This week on "In the Public Interest," 89.1 WEMU’s Lisa Barry is joined by Ann McKee and Al McCord of the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area talk about Proposal 1, which will be on the ballot on Tuesday.

About the Issue

This segment’s topic is Proposal 1, a proposal that seeks to establish a voter-initiated law to regulate marijuana like alcohol.  The League is interested in making sure that voters understand what is being proposed and what supporters and opponents are saying about the proposals.  The League has not taken an official position on this proposal.  If time allows, it will also be useful to briefly remind listeners that Proposal 2 (Voters not Politicians / Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission) and Proposal 3 (Promote the Vote) will also be on the ballot and that election information can be found at Vote411.org.

About the Guests

Anne McKee and Al McCord have been members of the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area since 2017. Anne and Al are long-time local residents, and each has worked at both Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan.  They have most recently been involved with the League’s voter education efforts, delivering presentations on the three ballot proposals to be decided in November.  These presentations have provided voters with information about how the proposals will appear on the ballot, how they would work, and what supporters and opponents see as their pros and cons.

Further Details on Proposal 1

If Proposal 1 becomes law, it will be legal to use marijuana for recreational purposes.  That means:

  1. It will be legal for individuals 21 years or older to use, buy, possess, transport, and keep in their homes up to 2½ oz. of marijuana or 15 grams of concentrate within marijuana-infused products like ointments and edibles.
  2. Beyond that 2½ oz., they will be able to keep up to 10 oz. of marijuana in their homes, but anything more than 2½ oz. has to be secured in a locked container.
  3. It will also be legal for anyone 21 years or older to grow and process up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption.

It would still be illegal for anyone under 21.  But public consumption and consumption in vehicles is prohibited, and landlords can prohibit the use of marijuana in rental properties in the same way they can prohibit the use of tobacco.
If Proposal 1 becomes law, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is required to develop regulations to manage the cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana and industrial hemp, which can be used in a range of products like paper, ropes, plastics, and construction materials.

The proposal gets quite detailed about regulating cultivation and sale.  It requires the state to create and set up a system of rules as well as processes for enforcing those rules.  That would take time, so even though voter-initiated laws technically take effect 10 days after official vote counts are declared, it would be a while before the systems were developed and put in place.

Many of the details would be determined through the rules-setting process, but the proposal requires that the regulatory system address a wide range of issues, such as:

  • Licensing qualifications and procedures
  • Cultivation and processing standards
  • Health and safety standards
  • Product testing
  • Security requirements
  • Inspections and audits
  • Fees and fines
  • Marketing, advertising, and product display
  • Packaging and labeling
  • Record-keeping and monitoring
  • Compliance, including investigations and enforcement
  • Public feedback on how the law is being administered.

Pros and Cons of Proposal 1

Pro Arguments:

Proponents argue that the law would generate about $200 million in new tax revenue for the state, and that those funds would support local municipalities, K-12 education, and the repair of roads and bridges. They also argue that Proposal 1 is designed to allow the industry to grow in a controlled manner and that tax revenues will grow over time.

However, opponents argue that a more accurate estimate is around $48 million in new tax revenue, and that the social and economic costs of legalization would outweigh any revenue gains.  They point to homelessness, drugged driving, absenteeism, and workplace injuries as contributing to the cost of legalization.

The Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, a nonpartisan state agency, estimates that Proposal 1 would generate more than $287 million in tax revenues by 2023.  Another way to look at it is to see what is happening in other states.  So, for example, in Oregon, which is about half Michigan’s size in terms of population, tax revenues from recreational marijuana in the last fiscal year were just above $80 million.

Con Arguments:

Safety concerns: e.g., drugged driving and workplace impairment -- This is an evolving issue.  Proposal 1 prohibits consumption of marijuana in public or in vehicles. There is no marijuana equivalent to breathalyzer testing for alcohol. Saliva tests are being evaluated in California, but results have been inconsistent.  Colorado has set a limit of 5 nanograms of THC as measured in whole blood for driving under the influence.  We expect that field testing will improve over time.

Impact on employers: e.g., workplace-based testing, impacts on employer hiring policies -- Proposal 1 clearly protects the rights of employers to not hire a candidate as a result of drug testing, or to discipline employees for violation of workplace policies.  The Society for Human Resources Managementrecommends treating recreational marijuana like alcohol in the workplace.  If Proposal 1 is adopted, we expect that employers will adjust their substance abuse policies to incorporate the legality of recreational marijuana.

Product safety: e.g., safety of marijuana itself, quality control, etc. -- Proposal 1 charges the state with establishing requirements for safe cultivation, processing, and distribution of marijuana, for setting maximum THC levels for marijuana-infused products, for product testing, and for product labeling and packaging.  These would be new protections that don’t currently exist in today’s illegal marketplace.

Impact on crime rates: e.g. increase in violent crimes, increased marijuana use by minors, etc. -- There is presently no causal evidence that legalized marijuana is associated with crime rates (some data from states with legalized marijuana have shown a reduction in violent crime, somewhat lower use of marijuana by minors, and somewhat increased rates of impaired driving arrests).  If Proposal 1 is passed, we expect that the state will monitor the impacts of recreational marijuana over time and take what they feel are appropriate actions based on the evidence.

Impact on those serving time or with prior convictions for marijuana-related offenses -- Although penalties for violation of the proposed law are much less severe than under current law, Proposal 1 does not address prior convictions.  States where marijuana has been legalized are all grappling with this issue, and Proposal 1 does not prohibit the state from addressing this issue in the future.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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