Michigan’s recreational marijuana law should take effect next month

Local government and law enforcement officials in Michigan are beginning to digest the fact their state will be the first in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana use.

Proposal 1, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, passed easily in Tuesday’s elections. Michigan Secretary of State figures show the measure garnered a 55 percent vote in favor with 82 of 83 counties reporting as of Wednesday afternoon.

“Now that it’s here, it’s time to wait for the laws to come out,” Paul Pirrone, supervisor in Bedford Township, said. “This is new for the state. … There’s still a lot of work to do.”

The measure takes effect 10 days after election results are certified, which typically happens in December. It will allow adults 21 and older to possess, use, or transport up to 2.5 ounces; possess up to 10 ounces at their residence, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal use.

The act also outlines a state licensing system for recreational marijuana businesses and allows municipalities to ban or restrict them; permits retail sales of marijuana and marijuana edibles with a 10 percent excise tax in addition to the state’s 6 percent sales tax, and changes some criminal violations to civil infractions, such as possession of more than the allowed amounts or possession by underage individuals.

Legal pot in Michigan won’t come right awayMichigan on Tuesday night became the first state in the Midwest and the 10th in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana. But that doesn’t mean legal pot will be plentiful in Ohio’s northern neighbor straight off. A lot needs to happen first.

● Proposal 1, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, allows adults 21 and older to possess, use, or transport up to 2.5 ounces of pot; possess up to 10 ounces at their residence; and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal use.

● Ten days after certification of Tuesday’s vote, adults older than 21 will be allowed to have, use and grow the drug,

● The process of establishing regulations for its retail sale will be left to the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The process could take about two years.

● Municipalities can ban or restrict marijuana businesses.

● The retail sale of marijuana and edibles will be subject to a 10 percent tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located.

Sources: The Associated Press, Michigan Secretary of State.

The state is to begin accepting license applications one year after the new law goes into effect. While the state’s medical marijuana laws require local governments to opt in, the recreational measure requires the opposite.

Of the officials The Blade spoke to Wednesday, Mr. Pirrone was the most neutral. He said Bedford Township has been focused on recent changes for medical marijuana licensing and hasn’t discussed the recreational measure.

“Honestly, we haven’t talked about it at all,” he said. “We’ve been waiting to see if it passes. We’re getting our feet wet and seeing what’s going to happen with it.”

Other officials who commented for this story were more in line with a spring survey by the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy. The results published in September show local government officials tend to oppose legalizing recreational pot with just 21 percent of those who participated supporting legalization.

Walter Ruhl, supervisor in Whiteford Township, said he spoke to the township attorney Wednesday morning and expects an opt-out ordinance to be brought up at the next board meeting.

“I think we’re going to … entertain a motion to have an ordinance banning any commercial activity with marijuana,” he said. “According to our attorney, that’s the safe thing to do. We can always change it in the future.”

Mr. Ruhl said the rural township doesn’t have the resources or infrastructure to support such businesses, citing a lack of dedicated township police and a small, volunteer fire department.

“It’s just not a good idea for our community right now,” he said.

Petersburg is likely to do the same.

“At this time, we don’t support recreational marijuana,” Mayor James Holeman said, speaking on behalf of city council. 

The city has decided it will allow a medical marijuana facility on one city-owned light industrial property, but the mayor said he thinks recreational users will want to grow their own pot instead of purchasing a commercially grown and taxed product.

“I don’t see that there’s a big advantage to having an outfit operate a recreational marijuana [business] here,” Mayor Holeman said.

Lenawee County Sheriff Jack Welsh said he’s “very disappointed” the measure passed and foresees a number of issues across the state like an increase in impaired driving.

“It’s going to cause problems in the workplace with employees being under the influence,” he said. “I’m concerned about our youth and the example it sets for our youth.”

He also said the black market for marijuana won’t go away and may experience some growth, because while it will be legal to use and possess marijuana in a month or so, it will take much more time for legal recreational retail sales in the state to get up and running. Sheriff Welsh also expects the new law to be challenged in court, but the department will abide by and enforce the new regulations as is necessary.

“The people have spoken so we’ll deal with it and enforce it,” he said.

Though still federally outlawed, nine other states and the District of Columbia had previously legalized marijuana for recreational use. Canada legalized it nationally in October. Thirty states, including Michigan and Ohio, have legal medical marijuana.

Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp noted recreational marijuana is still illegal in Ohio. He expects his deputies will handle more impaired driving and possession cases as Michiganders and Ohioans travel back and forth. He’s also concerned about an increase in drug-related car crashes, especially when it comes to injuries and fatalities.

“Those are issues that we’re going to be dealing with,” he said. “We’ll have to take a strong stand.”

Ohio voted down a recreational marijuana proposal in 2015, but a new measure is expected to be back on the ballot in 2019.

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