Michigan: Marijuana legalization heads to ballot after legislature declines to take it up

LANSING, MI – Lansing lawmakers did not approve the marijuana legalization ballot initiative by a Tuesday deadline, instead sending the issue to the ballot for voters to decide on.

“There’s simply not support in the chamber to pass this right now,” said House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, as the House concluded its session Tuesday without taking the matter up.

“The voters are going to have to decide,” he added.

The legislature had been mulling an adopt-and-amend plan that would have had lawmakers adopt the proposal put forward by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which would legalize recreational marijuana for those over 21, and then make changes.

Adopting the law instead of letting it go to the voters would make it easier to amend, because laws the legislature adopts can be changed with a majority vote while laws the voters have adopted require a three-fourths vote to change.

 

The Senate made a procedural move to let the body consider it, but did not end up taking a vote on it.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, has consistently said he has the votes.

But Amber McCann, a spokesperson for Meekof, said whether or not the vote took place depended on whether the House would also act.

 

“We would only vote if there were the true option to adopt in both chambers. We don’t feel a reason to put up votes to not have it amount to anything,” McCann said earlier this afternoon as the chamber went into recess to wait for House action.

Leonard, who personally opposed the measure, said the House was “nowhere in the ballpark” in terms of having the votes needed to pass the measure, though he would not disclose how many votes short the chamber was.

He said members had questions about what exactly the proposed amendments in the adopt-and-amend plan would look like, but Senate leadership had not shared any proposed language.

Meekhof in a statement expressed disappointment at the House’s lack of action.

“The choice to adopt and amend was the most responsible way to ensure local control for our communities and safety for our citizens and the Senate Republican Majority was prepared to act. Despite significant efforts to communicate the benefits of ‘adopt and amend’ to our counterparts, support did not materialize in the House. I am disappointed by this missed opportunity,” Meekhof said.

Josh Hovey, spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group forwarding the legalization proposal, said in a statement Tuesday polls consistently show Michiganders would support legalization at the ballot box.

“While we would have been happy to see our initiative passed by the legislature as written, we are confident Michigan voters understand that marijuana prohibition has been an absolute disaster and that they will agree that taxing and regulating marijuana is a far better solution,” Hovey said.

With no legislative action the measure will go to the Nov. 6 ballot. If approved by voters, the law could only be amended with a three-fourths vote of the state legislature.

 

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