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Michigan Legalization Measure Poised to Qualify for 2018 Ballot

Little more than a week after Detroit voters chose to loosen the city’s strict limits on medical cannabis dispensaries, advocates in Michigan have announced that an even bigger game-changer is headed for the ballot: statewide adult-use legalization.

The Committee to Regulate Alcohol like Marijuana this week announced that it has gathered more than 360,000 signatures to qualify an adult-use legalization measure for the 2018 ballot. While the signatures have yet to be validated by the state, the number of signatures gathered is far greater than the 252,523 required by law.

The group still has to pay off $30,000 in signature-gathering expenses before organizers can submit the truckloads of signed petitions to the Secretary of State, the Detroit Free Press reports. The campaign said Thursday that it is preparing to announce the signature turn-in on Monday, Nov. 20.

The initiative, as currently available on the group’s website, would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over and set up a system to regulate and tax cannabis businesses. Consumption would be allowed only in private homes.

The measure would also legalize industrial hemp under state law.

Tax dollars would go to public schools, road projects, and local governments that “opt in” by allowing cannabis businesses to operate in their jurisdictions.

Cannabis has been getting a lot of political play this month, the Free Press reports, including from five candidates running for governor. On Tuesday night, at a bipartisan debate in Ypsilanti, four Democrats and one Republican said they supported legalization. The candidates were Republican Evan Space and Democrats Gretchen Whitmer, Abdul El-Sayed, Shri Thanedar, and Bill Cobbs.

“When five main candidates are talking about supporting the (legalization) proposal, we’ve gone mainstream,” Lansing-based attorney Jeff Hank said after the event, according to the Free Press.

Earlier this week, the National Cannabis Industry Association, a legal-cannabis trade group, threw its weight behind the Michigan campaign.

“As the country’s second largest medical marijuana market, Michigan has the opportunity for serious job and economic growth in the adult-use cannabis industry,” Executive Director Aaron Smith said in a statement. “The 2018 ballot initiative put forth by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol combines some of the best practices and regulations from around the country and we are excited to take part in supporting this effort.”

The state’s medical cannabis industry is currently the second-fastest growing business sector, according to law firm Vicente Sederberg. That industry, made legal under a 2008 voter-approved law, is currently in the process of transitioning to a statewide licensing model, with state regulators set to begin accepting license applications on Dec. 15.

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Ben Adlin

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor who specializes in cannabis politics and law. He was a news editor for Leafly from 2015-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin

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