Michigan lawmakers failed to pass cannabis legalization law this week — and marijuana advocates are cheering the news. Yes, you read that correctly: Failure to pass a law is considered a success for Michigan cannabis consumers.
Now, the issue will be decided directly by the voters in November, and the initiative is more cannabis-friendly than what the state’s lawmakers intended to pass. Republican lawmakers in Michigan had hoped to pass a watered-down version of the law.
Cannabis insiders and industry leaders were wary of legislative interference with the law as proposed in the initiative. What the Republicans in the statehouse were fighting for was an “adopt-and-amend” scheme that would have allowed the lawmakers to adopt the initiative and then amend it with onerous changes and tighter regulations. According to state law, laws passed by the legislature can be amended with just a majority vote. But laws passed by voters require a three-fourths vote to change.
“The intent [of pushing it through the legislature] is not in the interest of public opinion,” Justin Strekal, political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, told Rolling Stone. “It’s in the interest of political expediency.”
The original initiative was architected by the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol campaign. If passed in November, recreational cannabis will be legal in Michigan. Citizens would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to keep 10 ounces in their homes without fear of arrest. The state will also allow residents to grow 12 plants at a time.
“Republican lawmakers wanted to have easier access to making changes, [which] might not have been bipartisan changes that are good for everybody,” Josh Hovey, communications director for the Regulate Marijuana campaign, told Rolling Stone. “Now any changes that are made should have to be far more bipartisan of a solution.”
Republicans had another motivation for interfering with the ballot measure: Voter turnout. Across the country, cannabis legalization initiatives have led to increased voter turnout, especially among younger voters and Democrats. Some GOP officials, already feeling trepidation over a potential “blue wave” in November, were hoping to minimize the damage by removing the ballot measure.