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Voters asked to approve recreational marijuana use

Ballot proposal dictates revenues must go to education, public safety, public health

DETROIT – After six months of bipartisan chatter about a possible ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use in Michigan, a proposal has been crafted and is on its way to the State Board of Canvassers.

The Michigan Cannabis Revenue and Control Act is the product of some of the brightest legal minds in government law in the state and it differs from laws in Colorado and Washington. For starters, the Michigan proposal does not allow lighting up a joint in public places.

"There is no point in doing this if we're not going to be able to make it reasonable, understandable and straightforward enough that people in the general election in 2016 are going to come out and vote for it and support it," said Matt Marsden.

Marsden is spearheading the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, which has already paid out big bucks to draft the ballot proposal, and hired the top signature-gathering firm in the country to come into Michigan and gather 300,000 signatures to put this on the ballot in 2016.

The ballot proposal language asks voters to approve recreational use and creates a Cannabis Control Board that will be responsible for licensing commercial and home growers and retail outlets. All commercial operations must be inside and on land zoned industrial and agricultural. Those who want to grow at home are looking at two plants. Those who have a felony on record won't be growing anything.   

The ballot proposal allows the state legislature to decide at what rate the pot and pot products will be taxed at, but it dictates that the revenues must go three places: education, public safety and public health.

There is also an escape hatch that allows for communities to pass ordinances banning grow operations if they choose. Ohio has a recreational pot ballot proposal to be voted on this year. Marsden and the coalition believe either Michigan gets ahead of the game or gets left in the dust.

"Your wallet and my wallet aren't necessarily impacted by this, because we're not going to choose to buy it, but I'm still going to reap the rewards of whatever revenue it generates," Marsden said. "Whether it be the low end or the high end, we still know there will be new revenue that isn't going to be coming from a general tax increase."

Colorado generated $53 million in pot sales the first year; Michigan has nearly the double population. How popular will this idea be with the public? The Michigan Cannabis Coalition plans on doing plenty of polling as the issue moves forward, but it's also trying to use crowdfunding to get the measure passed, which is a good indicator of general interest.

Whether people give $1 or $500, it helps gauge support.

The proposal would not impact the current medical marijuana law and it would not tax medical marijuana.

Click here to read more on the ballot proposal.


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