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Effort to legalize marijuana in Michigan to move forward soon

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A man who grows marijuana for medicinal purposes smokes marijuana at a clandestine greenhouse in Mexico City on November 30, 2015. Mexico will embark in January on a national debate on overhauling its marijuana laws, the government said Wednesday, weeks after the Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing pot. (CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

MICHIGAN — Last year, efforts fell short to get it on the ballot but the question of whether to legalize marijuana in our state just might be left up to voters to decide after all.

The push for a 2018 ballot initiative is expected to take a big step forward within the next few weeks, according to John Truscott, spokesperson for the statewide Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

The Detroit News reports MI Legalize, the group which failed to get the issue on the ballot in 2016, has announced its support of the effort being led by the statewide coalition. The group had opposed early drafts of the 2018 proposal, arguing it favored business interests over citizens.

“We’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible,” Truscott told FOX 17 in an interview last week. “We’ve talked to different folks in the business community, law enforcement, just to give everyone some opportunity to give some input about what they’d like to see in this proposal.”

Truscott says the coalition is hoping to have final petition language approved by the Michigan Bureau of Elections within a few weeks. The collection of signatures could begin as soon as the end of May, he said.

If the language is approved, organizers would have to collect 252,523 signatures within a 180-day window for the initiative to be eligible to be placed on the ballot.

“We’re taking a classic campaign approach to this proposal,” Truscott said, adding much of the final language will mirror language in the state’s newly reworked medical marijuana laws approved by the Legislature last fall.

“There are some very good provisions in the (medical marijuana laws) that protect the public, and provide a very safe way to move forward.”

Truscott declined to provide details of the provision, only saying it will aim to legalize recreational marijuana use and possession in “small amounts” for adults. Individuals would only be allowed to grow a limited number of plants at home, while the state would license businesses and tax marijuana sales, he said.

“It will be something that people can look at and say ‘that’s a responsible approach,’” Truscott told FOX 17.

Eight states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington—have legalized recreational marijuana use. Thirty states have legalized medical marijuana, Truscott said, citing public opinion showing a growing “wave” of favorable support to end pot prohibition.

“I think 2018 just kind of hits the sweet spot as far as timing with public sentiment,” he told FOX 17.

Right now, the potential ballot initiative does not face any organized opposition, but some current and former law enforcement officials remain opposed to the idea of legalization.

“I have no problem with medical marijuana,” said Rep. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and former Eaton Co. Sheriff.

“Recreational marijuana is a bad idea. It’s costly to the state, you have more auto accidents, more police needed to police that problem, people driving under the influence of marijuana, which is a dangerous thing.”

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Under the new Trump Administration, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not committed to not enforcing existing federal laws like the previous administration. But Sessions has called marijuana a “financial moneymaker” for organized crime and “definitely a cartel-sponsored event,” CNN reported earlier in the month.

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