Leaders of 2018 marijuana legalization efforts in Michigan are taking their message across the state, after more than 10,000 individuals assembled for the 46th annual Hash Bash in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Former state Rep. Jeff Irwin, a Democrat from Ann Arbor, is the political director for the newly formed Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, which is expecting to collect enough signatures beginning in May to get the issue of legalizing marijuana in Michigan on the ballot in November 2018.
Lansing lawyer Jeff Hank is heading the separate MI Legalize 2018 campaign, which likewise hopes to start collecting signatures in May.
Whether there will be two different initiatives, or whether the two groups unify around one proposal, remains to be seen.
Both efforts, together with other organizations, have been working together to draft language for a proposal to legalize recreational use of pot for individuals 21 and older, and to tax and regulate it.
Both campaigns are currently circulating the same draft language, and both are asking for feedback from the people before submitting a final draft to the State Board of Canvassers later in the month.
Speakers at Saturday’s rally in Ann Arbor supported unification and alluded to divisions within the Michigan marijuana legalization movement. There have been some disagreements over the draft ballot language.
Irwin said he is assured at this point they will be united as one coalition before moving forward in the following month.
The outreach coordinator for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, Irwin and Lissa Satori, are holding informational meetings in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids to go over the 2018 initiative.
MI Legalize was behind the legalization campaign that fell short in 2016 because of petition signatures that are invalidated.
“In June of 2016, MI Legalize submitted more than 350,000 signatures to put the issue of marijuana legalization before the voters of Michigan. Unfortunately, in a legally questionable move by Michigan’s Bureau of Elections, approximately half of the signatures submitted weren’t counted,” the group’s website states.
After a fundraiser event at the Pretzel Bell’s Captain’s Room in downtown Ann Arbor Saturday night, MI Legalize is intending to hold a succession of events through the entire state between April 12 and May 1, stopping in Menominee, Iron Mountain, Houghton, Calumet, Ishpeming, Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie, Muskegon, Traverse City, Royal Oak, Lansing and Kalamazoo.
The tour culminates with a May Day rally on the state Capitol lawn in Lansing at 11 a.m. May 1.
A survey conducted by EPIC-MRA earlier this year showed 57 percent of 600 people surveyed in Michigan said they’d definitely vote yes, likely vote yes, or lean toward voting yes on a ballot question about legalizing marijuana.
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, has asserted the negatives would outweigh the positives if marijuana was legalized for recreational use. A former police officer, he believes it could result in more crashes on Michigan roads.
Jones also said he believes it would raise unemployment “because most employers don’t want to hire folks that use marijuana.”
Legalization advocates contend ending marijuana prohibition would cease 20,000 marijuana arrests every year in Michigan, arrests they say unnecessarily interrupt people’s lives and make it more difficult for them to find jobs.
Irwin said an extensive selection of individuals concur marijuana prohibition is a failure, is costing taxpayers too much money, is destroying people’s lives and is contrary to principles of liberty. Instead of spending substantial amounts of money arresting and locking up individuals for marijuana, he said, the state should be regulating and taxing it and using the tax revenue to fund roads and schools.