2017-08-20 / Editorial

Petition drive may alter marijuana use

The Lapeer Planning Commission has authorized its contracted consultant to draft zoning and buffer restrictions as the City of Lapeer moves forward to allow five kinds of possible business operations as it relates to medical marijuana in the city.

Lapeer officials in April agreed to opt in to new state law to allow medical marijuana businesses in the city. Now in the hands of the city’s planning commission, consultant Scott Kree recently advised officials as they consider where and how to allow medical marijuana businesses in the city that they ought to also consider the possibility that recreational use of marijuana looms on the horizon in Michigan. It’s possible, if not likely, he suggested that provision (retail outlets) approved for medical marijuana could morph to include the sale of recreational marijuana.

Kree’s words of caution were well founded.

On Thursday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved a new proposed ballot effort to amend the state constitution to fully legalize recreational use of marijuana without taxing the drug. The proposal from Abrogate Prohibition Michigan of Midland would nullify all laws prohibiting or regulating the use of marijuana and impose no fines, taxes or penalties on its use.

“I call it the Second Amendment of cannabis,” sponsor Timothy Locke told the Detroit Free Press, comparing it to the U.S. constitutional provision granting the right to bear arms.

The Legislature would still have the power to tax and regulate cannabis, but no such measures would be required as part of his constitutional amendment, he said.

Activists must now gather hundreds of thousands of valid voter signatures in a six-month window to qualify for the November 2018 ballot.

An earlier marijuana legalization proposal, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has gathered more than 100,000 of the 252,523 signatures it needs to put the question on the November 2018 ballot. That earlier proposal would initiate state legislation, but not change the state constitution. The new proposal approved to move forward this week would require 315,654 signatures, as a constitutional amendment.

California, Massachusetts and Maine all voted in November to make recreational weed legal, joining Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. The nation’s capital — the District of Columbia — also permits the sale and use of recreational pot. That means 205 million Americans live in a state where marijuana use is legal in some way although cannabis remains entirely illegal at the federal level.

How legalized marijuana is affecting our society has no clear answers, scientists and public health experts say — mainly because we don’t have enough information yet.

In Colorado, state-sanctioned sales to any adult have been legal only since Jan. 1, 2014. Massachusetts, where voters approved a ballot initiative last year, won’t see retail sales until July 2018.

A USA TODAY Network investigation into marijuana legalization reveals increases in marijuana-related car crashes and in hospitalization of kids who steal their parents’ pot, of black-market smuggling rings and the challenges of running cash-based businesses that can’t use traditional banks because of federal regulations.

Last week a Lapeer Planning Commissioner who was formerly a police and Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) officer was the lone “No” vote to allow all five kinds of medical marijuana businesses to operate in the city. He was reluctant to embrace marijuana — a drug he worked for years to keep from the hands of youth as well as enforced current laws related to marijuana possession and consumption by adults.

The state Board of Canvassers voted 4-0 Thursday to approve only the form — but not the substance — of the constitutional amendment petition, and not before one of the four board members questioned the organizers’ intent. A Republican appointee to the board queried a provision that would make the change retroactive.

This week’s petition sponsor told the Free Press the measure would be retroactive to about 1970, when he said cannabis was first criminalized at the state level. Anyone imprisoned only for state marijuana crimes would be subject to release and criminal records would be expunged.

One thing is certain, the next six months in Michigan is going to be a wild ride as citizens will be confronted with many issues as we navigate the marijuana minefield

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