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: Michigan Could See A Bipartisan Effort To Legalize Marijuana


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Four states have legalized marijuana. Could Michigan be next?

The cultural shift on weed has been palpable since the Just-Say-No decade of the 1980s.

Full disclosure: I grew up in that heyday (and may have done a few undeniably uncool anti-drug sketches for school groups). I'm a soccer mom square, so I'm aware that's the way I sound in pointing out that the young people, they're rather blunt about marijuana use in music and movies nowadays.

But polling reflects a growing laissez-faire attitude. There's been a dramatic rise over the last decade in national support for legalizing pot, with a slim majority (51 percent) now in favor. And 38 percent have admitted to using it.

In Michigan, there's certainly been talk of putting a measure on the 2016 ballot. We already overwhelming OK'd medical marijuana in 2008.

Since then, decriminalization efforts have passed in cities like Lansing, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, Detroit and Port Huron.

And with Michigan back in the uncomfortable (but familiar) place of running budget deficits, everyone is hunting for a painless solution. 

Legalizing pot (and heavily taxing it) could provide the state with much-needed revenue. 

This idea was brought up during the road-funding debate (with the catchy "pot for potholes" slogan). And if the May 5 ballot question to hike the sales tax goes down, legalization could gain traction.

Colorado, which has become the poster child for legalization, is home to a $700 million industry. The state has seen an influx of $53 million in tax revenue since the law passed.

A word of warning, however. Colorado had estimated legal weed would net $70 million in revenue, but appears to have fallen short because its hefty taxes have kept the black market alive.

As one of the early states to legalize medical marijuana, Michigan has experienced growing pains.

It's no secret that most Democrats backed the law (it won 63 percent support statewide), but many officials declined to support it publicly. No one wants to be cast as soft-on-crime, pot-smoking hippies.

But now Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) has held a press conference calling for statewide decriminalization. 

Meanwhile, Republican attorney General Bill Schuette, who unsuccessfully led the '08 effort against the measure, has devoted a lot time to fighting the last war, like clamping down on dispensaries. 

The GOP-led Legislature also approved restrictions in 2012. But some Republicans, particularly Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville), a chiropractor, are shifting away from a hardline position.

Callton, who came up with "pot for potholes," campaigned last year on expanding access to medical marijuana. He has new legislation that could allow revamped dispensaries (called "provisioning centers") to sell extra weed grown by caregivers.

More interestingly, he's found an ally in Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto), who's sponsoring a bill allowing certified patients access to liquid, edible and topical cream forms of marijuana.

It's worth noting that Callton and Lyons don't represent cosmopolitan areas, like Ann Arbor or tony suburbs of Detroit. They're from small Republican towns (Lyons even hails from the conservative bastion of West Michigan).

Maybe there's a growing acceptance in the Republican Party that weed has gone mainstream and smarter policies are needed. Libertarians have also become increasingly vocal within the party, arguing the government should stop being so intrusive with drug policy.

It's smart politics, too. Roughly two-thirds of millennials support full legalization. Republicans can make inroads with a group that's voted Democratic by tapping into this issue.

If a legalization ballot measure gets off the ground for 2016, you can expect several Democratic officials to line up behind it. But I'm betting some savvy Republicans will get on board, too -- which could be the key to victory.



Edited by bobandtorey
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While it may be premature to start looking skyward for rings, one might contrast Republican US Representative Fred Upton' position on MMJ with Detroit's Democratic Representative Sander Levin's and wonder if the party pot politics are shifting.


The Republican small-government, personal responsibility, and individual liberty platform has always been at odds with the big government arrest-and-punishment prosecutory.

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I am not convinced legalization is in my best interest as a mmj patient.


I would be perfectly happy if the courts would simply interpret the MMMA as it was written.


Indeed, I think alcohol legalization should be treated like mmj and not vice versa.

or even if I were a rec user.... once you go fake legalization there's no way back .....

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