Citizens Research Council of Michigan President Eric Lupher says businesses in Michigan will have a “fine line to navigate” if voters approve a proposal to legalize marijuana. That’s in part because pot would remain illegal under federal law.
The Citizens Research Council is analyzing all of the initiatives on the ballot in November, including Proposal 1 to legalize marijuana for people 21 and older. Lupher spoke with WMUK’s Gordon Evans.
If the proposal is approved, marijuana could not be used in school, or before driving, just like alcohol. Employers would still be able to prohibit use, and could still do drug testing of their workers. Property owners would maintain the right to prohibit marijuana on their in their home.
Lupher says the basics of the proposal in Michigan are similar to other states that have legalized marijuana. But he says Michigan would be on low end of states in terms of taxation. There would be a 10% tax in Michigan while other states are higher, for example Washington’s rate is 37%. Lupher says a higher tax rate may not end the “black market” for marijuana, but he says the lower tax rate could mean less money is generated from marijuana sales.
The tax revenue from marijuana will be used in part for the implementation and enforcement of laws. Lupher says a unique aspect of Michigan’s proposed law is that part of money should be used for testing whether marijuana can be used for treating medical conditions of veterans and preventing suicide. Some of the money would go to local governments that allow marijuana related businesses, the rest would go to the school aid fund and transportation fund. Lupher says one thing missing is money to address health issues related to marijuana.
Lupher says most of the experts interviewed by the Citizens Research Council agree that criminalization or marijuana hasn’t worked. Statistics show more people are arrested for marijuana possession than all violent crimes combined in the United States. Lupher says that creates costs for police departments, prosecutors’ offices and courts. He says the cost savings should not be oversold because marijuana possession can be tied into other crimes. Lupher says possession alone is not a huge part of the corrections system.
The group seeking legalization of marijuana in Michigan gathered enough petition signatures to send the law to the Legislature. But if it’s approved by voters, then it would require a three-quarters vote of the House and Senate to amend it. If the Legislature approves a citizen-initiated law, it can be amended by a simple majority. Lupher says while a three-quarters vote is not insurmountable, the bar is set much higher to make changes if there are problems or unintended consequences once the law in enacted.