thankful graphic because we are thankful for cannabis legalization in Michigan

Cannabis Legalization in Michigan: A New Day

This piece first appeared in Rapid Growth as a guest blog on November 15, 2018

There are moments in your life when things happen and you always rememdrawing of Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, he is mentioned in this article about cannabis legalization in Michiganber where you were and what you were doing. Some memorable events are bad, like the Challenger explosion, the World Trade Center attacks, or the death of Jerry Garcia. And then there are the good, memorable events. I’ll never forget when same-sex marriage was made legal. And most recently when cannabis legalization happened in Michigan with the voter approval of Proposition 1. My business partner and I launched our firm, Canna Communication, in the summer of 2017, knowing we’d be working in medical cannabis for a couple of years, but were focused on the passage of adult-use recreational legalization. I spent election night in Detroit watching voting returns in a Jefferson Avenue law office, consuming cannabis with a few dozen other activists until early in the morning when we were sure we’d won. I proudly wore the heady scent of marijuana the entire next day.

Sometime in early December — ten days after the election results are certified — Prop 1 will begin to be implemented. For those of you that were hoping to go out and buy cannabis in a shop, you’ll have to wait for at least a year; that’s how long the legislature has to review and adopt the law.

The good news is, if you already have cannabis on your person, you’re not a criminal anymore, and that’s the most critical aspect of the passage of this law.

If commerce and tax revenue are the brains of ending prohibition, then decriminalization is its heart.

With the new law, you can grow up to 12 plants on your property without having a caregiver license. You can possess up to 2.5 ounces on your person. You can have up to 10 ounces in your home. None of this is a crime anymore. If you are a non-medical, card-carrying marijuana consumer, you no longer need to worry about trouble with the police if you have cannabis and let’s say, you are stopping for speeding. As long as you are NOT under the influence or using as you’re driving, the small bag of marijuana in your purse or pocket is your own damn business.

For people of color, marijuana law has always been unfair. According to the ACLU, people of color are arrested at a rate 3.7 times greater than white people, though whites, African Americans, and Latinx people use cannabis at the same rate. The war on drugs that we all grew up with was an invention of President Richard Nixon, not based on facts, but on his personal whim. It’s come to light that he moved cannabis to schedule 1 status to repress young war protesters and black people.

Consider this quote from John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic policy advisor speaking to reporter Dan Baum in Harper’s magazine, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”

How about that 10-ounce possession cap that has taken a few people by surprise?

Cannabis flower is light in weight, and 10 ounces is a lot of product, more than 200 joints depending on how you roll. Critics of the law say that’s too much. But, consider this: there’s no limit to the amount of beer, liquor, or wine you can have in your home, right? If you want a wine cellar with 200 bottles, a well-stocked bar, or a keg of beer in your home, it’s your right as an adult to do that. We need to think about cannabis that way, too. Just because you have you ten ounces, doesn’t mean you’re just sitting around consuming it all at once. Marijuana keeps well in a cool, dark, dry place, just like wine.

Cannabis Legalization in Michigan = Economic Gains.

Cannabis legalization in Michigan brings opportunities for businesses and jobs here and not just selling the plant. Because public consumption (smoking or vaping) isn’t allowed — not on the street, in a place of business, or in your personal vehicle — there should be opportunities for people to create private or membership-style spaces for consumption.

Popular in already-legal states are bud and breakfast accommodations, outdoor patios where people can consume, places for puff n paint events, party buses where people can consume while taking tours of growing operations and provisioning centers. In Colorado, Amsterdam-style coffee shops are popping up. In Aspen, Colorado, cannabis sales outpaced alcohol in 2017. Much of the potential cannabis tourism will be dependent on how Michigan’s legislature digs into the specifics of the law.

Marijuana activists still have work to do post-Prop 1. People need to stay in contact with or begin conversations with elected officials about how the law will be implemented. It’s likely that the legislature will attempt to over-regulate cannabis where it is able to do so. On the local level, we need to watch our city, village, or township meeting agendas for opt-in discussions. Just over 100 municipalities in Michigan are open to medical marijuana businesses at present, and many municipalities were waiting to see if legalization passed. The marijuana opposition has stated that its next effort is to stop opt-ins in communities. If you want to see Prop 1 enacted in your community, you’ll continue to need to make your voice heard. We need to work together, too, for expungement of prior marijuana arrest records and for the release of those serving time for minor marijuana crimes.

By the time of the next election, we’ll have lived with recreational cannabis in Michigan for about a year. There will be some speed bumps and rough patches, I’m sure. But like the West and East coast states that have already blazed the trail, the sky will not fall and Michigan citizens will see the benefit of new businesses, jobs, and taxes, not to mention the easy pleasure of marijuana consumption.

marijuana legalization in Michigan is approved by voters cannabis flowers like this one pictured will be legal to purchase by people 21 and older

Marijuana Legalization in Michigan: Our FAQs

Because we work in the marijuana business, we get frequent questions from people about what marijuana legalization in Michigan. Here are our thoughts and some data on the topic.

What is on the ballot?
Proposition 1 is a citizen-driven ballot initiative to end cannabis prohibition in Michigan. If you vote yes, it means you want marijuana to be able to be sold to adults 21 and older in Michigan. If you vote no, Michigan will remain a medical-only state.

Why are you supportive of the proposal for marijuana legalization in Michigan?
First, because adults can make decisions for themselves about what they put in their bodies, be it supersized soft drinks, whiskey, craft beer or tobacco or asparagus. We are able to make those decisions for ourselves and we should be able to do that.
Second, the prohibition of cannabis hasn’t worked. It created a large black market that exists to this day. People who don’t have a medical marijuana card can still buy marijuana, and even before medical marijuana became legal 10 years ago, it was always easy to find. Prohibition didn’t work with alcohol and it isn’t working with marijuana, either.
Third, the criminalization of marijuana unfairly targets people of color—as it has since Richard Nixon assigned it to schedule 1 in the 1970s. People of color are arrested at a rate 8 times higher than white people for possession of small amounts of marijuana. According to the ACLU, states spend about $3.6 billion each year enforcing marijuana laws. Nationally, more arrests are made for marijuana possession than all violent crimes combined.

What will Michigan look like after Prop 1, if it is passed?
In additions to pretty beaches, tourists soon might be able to visit Michigan for legal marijuanaSince communities can opt-in or out for medical marijuana, a similar policy applies to recreational marijuana legalization in Michigan. But communities will need to opt out. There won’t be provisioning centers in every community—only where zoning has been approved. We’ll probably see a bump in tourism—Michigan will be the first Midwestern state that is legal and there are lots of people who live close to Michigan. Expect that people will come for skiing, beaches, colorful leaves, fudge and cannabis. Under the new law, there will be small boutique growers, which is great for entrepreneurs. This ensures there will be a place for small marijuana businesses in Michigan. Cannabis microbusinesses will be small businesses licensed to grow up to 150 marijuana plants and process, package, and sell marijuana to consumers.

Can the legislature change anything that is passed?
No, that opportunity passed the legislature earlier this year. The proposal, which is about four pages long, stands as the law. We expect though, that how it is regulated will be where the government will step in and make rules.

Marijuana will still be illegal federally. How does that affect business in Michigan is this is passed?
It will still remain an illegal federal substance, so you can’t mail it or take it across state lines. Businesses will struggle with banking, taxes and standard business deductions, which are not allowed.

Will this increase the amount of driving while high?
It is illegal to drive high, as it is illegal to drive drunk. Some people will do it regardless of the law.

Will marijuana legalization increase drug use of other kinds?
The gateway theory has been well refuted and if you’re inclined to try other drugs, you won’t find them in a marijuana dispensary. That’s a black market issue.

Is marijuana addictive?
It has not been clinically proven to be addictive. It can be overused, like anything that gives a human being pleasure. Unlike alcohol or tobacco, it can’t an edible marijuana cookie bar, it will be legal for all adults if Michigan legalizes marijuanakill you. There are no known cases of cannabis overdoses. Overusing it—usually happens when people overconsume edible cannabis. The effect of edibles is slow to be felt and people tend to take a few extra bites and then, BOOM, an uncomfortable feeling comes on. But it won’t kill you. You might think you are dying, but you won’t be.

Can people be fired from a job for using marijuana if the drug is legal?
Yes. Company personnel policies supersede the law when it comes to drug use. If your workplace prohibits it don’t do it. This also applies to medical marijuana patients.

How much taxes will be collected?
Ten percent of all sales in an excise tax and the Michigan sales tax of six percent will be collected. It’s estimated $100-200 million will be raised and while much of it will be used for PTSD and veteran health research, schools, roads and in communities with marijuana businesses.

How much marijuana can a person legally have?
This proposal, if passed will make possession of up to ten ounces legally. You still can’t drive under the influence or use it on the street, on a beach or in any public place. People 21 and older can grow up to 12 plants in their home without running afoul of the law.

Can we learn anything from other states that have legalized?
It isn’t an easy road for any state to implement this kind of a sweeping change and citizens should expect that it will take 18 months to two years to happen. It will still be highly regulated under the rules that guide Michigan’s medical marijuana businesses at present. Those rules demand 24/7 surveillance/security of growing and provisioning stores, seed to sale tracking, secure transport of cannabis and products and identification and proof of age to purchase.

If you care about marijuana legalization in Michigan it is important that you vote on November 6.

a marijuana leaf, symbolizing michigan marijuana legalization

Why Michigan Marijuana Legalization is The Next Big Thing


Finally! The Michigan Board of Canvassers approved the signatures to move adult-use marijuana legalization to the ballot in November. This isn’t unexpected, though it felt the board was dragging its feet on approving this—the petitions for Michigan marijuana legalization were turned in last November and just approved in April. BUT, we’re not whining—we’re winning.

This is a Very Big Deal For Ending Marijuana Prohibition And Here’s Why.

Michigan, next to California is the most populous state considering legalization. California has a population of 39.5 million people and Michigan has 9.9 million residents. Keep in mind none of the other legal recreational states have a population the size of Michigan. Colorado has 5.6 million people, Washington 7.4 million, Oregon 4.1 million, Nevada 2.9 million and Alaska 739,000 and on the eastern side of the US: Vermont 620,000, Maine 1.3 million, Washington, DC 693,000 and Massachusetts 6.8 million.

Despite being a cul-de-sac state, we’re close to a lot of big population states and cities. Chicago, which is less than an hour drive away from our border has more than 2.6 million residents; and Illinois has 12 million people, Indiana has 6.6 million people, Ohio has 11.6 million residents and Wisconsin has 5.7 million residents. Added up, it gives Michigan easy access to 62 million people—who live within a half-day or less drive to the state borders. We certainly don’t think that all 62 million will flood in, but if the data holds, 52 percent of that 62 million might just stop in and check out our new industry.

summer in Michigan, soon a be a legal marijuana state if michigan marijuana legalization passesAnother thing that sets Michigan apart from other states that have adult use cannabis is that we are a major tourist state. A four-season tourism state. Pure Michigan spends $35 million on persuading people to visit our pleasant peninsula. Cannabis will be just one more reason for people to visit Michigan. We’ve seen models of cannabis tourism in Colorado, and there’s no reason to think that Michigan entrepreneurs won’t cash in on this industry. 

Michigan will be the first Midwestern state to legalize marijuana for adult use. It’s part of the normalization of cannabis that we’re seeing spread across the US. We expect the east and west coasts to be the most progressive and to imagine that Michigan will be the 10th state to legalize, well, that’s pretty exciting. It puts us in a league with other cool places like California, Oregon, Washington and Vermont. It also speaks to the hard work and will of citizens, gathering 277,000 petition signatures is no small feat and MILegalize and the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol deserve thanks for making that happen.

Michigan Marijuana Legalization Won’t be Easy.

Michigan’s marijuana legalization effort won’t be without a fight. There have been state-wide legalization efforts, like Arizona, which went up in smoke due to the well-funded opposition. We should expect a battle here in Michigan, too. Fighting against legalization in Arizona was pharmaceutical maker Insys and Discount Tire. They successfully moved public opinion against legalization. We understand conservative politics in Michigan and there’s no reason to think that well-heeled people won’t put their money behind stopping this. Just as supporters in Michigan have the Drug Policy Alliance and NORML as allies, the opposition is ready for the fight.

image of a cannabis leaf symbolizing michigan marijuana legalizationWe have public opinion on our side. From big national surveys like Gallup and Pew Research Center to Michigan’s own Epic MRA, we know that people are generally in favor of legalizing. This change in opinion comes from a few things. Medical marijuana is a great place to start getting people oriented to the plant and its uses. More often than not, people know people who have used cannabis for treating and illness. Between women who are fighting breast cancer and the effect of chemotherapy; to adults and children with epilepsy and veterans who are using cannabis for PTSD—there’s a growing number of people with medical marijuana cards—in Michigan about 218,556 cards. It means in all likelihood you or someone you know is using cannabis for one of the allowable ailments.  The more people that are willing to talk about consuming cannabis for health reasons, the more ordinary it will become to the people around them.

Science is also on our side. As more credible research is done and data is shared, we’ll see people begin to believe what we’ve known for some time—that cannabis is a helpful and life-changing plant. The recent findings in JAMA that showed a reduction in opioid addiction in cannabis legal states is one data set that we can turn to.

The Future is Bright, But we Need Everyone to do These Three Things.

1. Arm yourself with the facts and educate your neighbors, family and friends about cannabis. We provide factual information on this website and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Make sure your information is well-sourced, Leafly, High Times, The New York Times, CNN and Washington Post are great resources.

2. Support the cause with time and/or money. In Michigan, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, MILegalize and Michigan NORML will need not only financial support but volunteer help. too. It’s important that each of us do something. If you have time, give it. If you have money, give some.

3. On November 6, 2018, you need to vote. You need to make sure no matter what is happening that day that you get to the polls and vote for Michigan marijuana legalization. Help people get to the polls if needed. Make sure everyone you know if registered to vote.

It will take all of us to give Michigan the number 10 spot in the US—it’s a spot we deserve.