State lawmakers at odds on who should decide to legalize recreational marijuana

LANSING, Mich.-- Recreational marijuana will likely become legal in Michigan for people 21 years of age and older. What's not certain however, are the strings that could be attached to the initiative depending on how State Republicans act by midnight on Tuesday.

More than a quarter-million signatures petitioning the legalization of recreational marijuana are forcing the Republican-led State Legislature to act. They can either pass it themselves by midnight on Tuesday, or reject it or do nothing, which would put the initiative on the ballot in November and be left up to voters.

“At this point, I think that it’s best to leave it to the people," State Senator Curtis Hertel (D) tells FOX 17.

Hertel supports the legalization of recreational marijuana but he says he'd rather see it go to the ballot.

Several polls from EPIC-MRA and Victory Phones show that Michigan voters would likely vote "yes" to legalizing recreational marijuana. If the voters pass it, the legislators would need the support of a two-thirds majority to amend the law.

If the State Legislature approves it on Tuesday, they can amend the law more easily since they would only need a simple majority's support, which is exactly what some Republicans, even those who oppose recreational marijuana, want to happen.

“I would prefer that the Legislature should pass the recreational marijuana," State Senator Rick Jones (R) tells FOX 17. "I have been against it all my life, I’m a former police officer of 31 years, but all the polling shows it’s going to win overwhelmingly and the big difference is that if we pass it, then we can control it with simple majority.”

Hertel says he's even heard talk of adding an enactment clause, meaning it wouldn't go into effect until the federal government legalizes it.

“That’s not what the framers of our Constitution intended when they put this in," Hertel says. "I think it would be a big mistake for the Legislature to act at this point and it should go on the ballot and the people should decide.”

Hertel says he's also skeptical about Republicans' intentions to use this potential vote to impact the November election. He says he believes rumors that Republicans may pass the initiative just to give Democrats one less reason to vote in November and elect more Democrats into office.

“Their intention is all about the politics, and the people’s will should be more important than politics," Hertel says.

State Senator Tommy Brann (R), who is also a bar owner, says he has genuine concerns about the legalization of recreational marijuana. He says he worries enough about irresponsible alcohol use and doesn't want to see marijuana easily abused as well.

“Everybody makes mistakes in life with drinking and that’s sad," Brann tells FOX 17. "I think marijuana, the thing that worries me most about marijuana if it goes into a higher drug, that’s my biggest concern.”

The initiative to legalize recreational marijuana also includes various taxes, some of which would go to local governments, K-12 education and repairing roads and bridges. This topic was brought up at the Mackinac Policy Conference Bipartisan Gubernatorial Debate.

Democrat Abdul El-Sayed says this issue has become one of civil rights. During the debate he said that African-Americans are more likely to be incarcerated for marijuana possession, despite no higher likelihood of use.

“It is the reason why we have brimming jails and we don’t have the means of investing in our schools and so, we’ve got to legalize,” El-Sayed says.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley (R) said during the debate that he opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana but if voter's approve it, he will respect the outcome.

The initiative would also legalize industrial hemp and allow for municipalities to ban or limit marijuana establishments.

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18 comments

  • ok

    State Senator Tommy Brann (R), who is also a bar owner, says he has genuine concerns about the legalization of recreational marijuana. He says he worries enough about irresponsible alcohol use and doesn’t want to see marijuana easily abused as well. Last time i go there …! worried about drunks ,get rid of your liquor license TOMMY ! i know that wont ever happen . $$$$$$$$$$ we know who has to go now …

  • Kevin Rahe

    There is no such thing as moderate use of marijuana analogous to the moderate use of alcohol. Does anyone really want people promoting this stuff to their children? I feel like I’m living in the Twilight Zone just knowing that a significant number of people would seriously consider voting Yes on this proposal.

    • Helpful Info

      States where cannabis has been legalized have seen a reduction in use by those under 18. Wherever you’re getting your information on cannabis, it’s wrong.

      • Kevin Rahe

        You’re missing my point. The law teaches. When something is specifically made legal, it tells people that it’s an “okay” thing – that it can and often is used without harm. The way I see it, legalizing marijuana is no different than legalizing alcohol would be if no one used it in moderation – i.e. if everyone who used alcohol did so with the intention of getting drunk.

        • Turtlelover269

          Kevin Rahe, Please get educated!!!! Comparing Marijuana and Alcohol is like comparing an Orange to a Kiwi, TOTALLY different in so many ways. The “LAW” has been altered by politicians that are money hungry and want to control the American people. Whether it is Legal or Illegal people are and have been smoking it and using it for decades. If you look up the data on Cannabis verse Alcohol you will see that there has NEVER been a single death due to the use of Cannabis, but Thousands of deaths due to Alcohol consumption, not to mention that Cannabis does NOT cause organ damage. If you oppose the legalization of Cannabis you might want to find a new State to live in because whether the Politicians pass it or not the people of Michigan will!! As for Hemp they shouldn’t put it under the same category either, again not the same fruit and Hemp doesn’t have THC in it!!! Oh, on your point about it’s Okay to use and won’t cause any harm, Cannabis is one of the ONLY plants on the Planet that can cure Cancer, Anxiety, PTSD, Seizures, Fibromyalgia, and a ton of other medical conditions without being addictive and again people have been using it for decades they are just sick of going to jail or being fined for something GOD put on this earth and that is helping them more than prescription drugs!! I respect your view of being opposed of it, but who are you to limit someone else from benefiting from it? As for promoting it to children, it would only be legal to those over 21 and if you think that kids now a days aren’t smoking it you seriously need to get out of your bubble and come into the real world.

  • Brian Kelly

    It’s time for us, the majority of The People to take back control of our national marijuana policy. By voting OUT of office any and all politicians who very publicly and vocally admit to having an anti-marijuana, prohibitionist agenda! Time to vote’em all OUT of office. Period. Plain and simple.

    Politicians who continue to demonize Marijuana, Corrupt Law Enforcement Officials who prefer to ruin peoples lives over Marijuana possession rather than solve real crimes who fund their departments toys and salaries with monies acquired through Marijuana home raids, seizures and forfeitures, and so-called “Addiction Specialists” who make their income off of the judicial misfortunes of our citizens who choose marijuana, – Your actions go against The Will of The People and Your Days In Office Are Numbered! Find new careers before you don’t have one.

    The People have spoken! Get on-board with Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, or be left behind and find new careers. Your choice.

    Legalize Nationwide!

  • Brian Kelly

    Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Nationwide!

  • Iamct01

    Passing rec weed now is just trying to get millennials to stay home from voting. Showing up for governor is just as important. Harder for a new governor to veto if we the people vote on it. Going against what we the people vote on is political suicide.

  • Unslaved

    “I have been against it all my life, I’m a former police officer of 31 years…” He’s been locking people in cages and ruining their lives when they did nothing to harm any other being for a long time. If he took five seconds to examine the evil he’s done in his life for a pay check, he’d have to admit he’s a piece of shít that just resembles a human being.

  • ghostbud

    i smoke cannabis for mental health reasons i have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder i get confused trying to do multiple things like cleaning i can only concentrate on one thing at a time when i smoke it gives me the ability to focus on everything and i become the maid…. i get overly excited about certain topics and will tell you til your blue in the face thats when i don’t smoke when i smoke it calms me and im able to concentrate on multiple tasks so if i have to pay a sales tax in a dispensary so be it at least its going to good causes like education and infrastructure but i would like to see revenue go towards mental health and medical services and drug education as well cause michigan needs it tobacco is legal and causes cancer and heart disease and birth defects cannabis doesn’t give you cancer or any of that stuff and its a healthier alternative to tobacco and alcohol i have never done any hard drug cannabis is the only thing i need in reality if it was legal i would quit tobacco permanently and i have copd so please pass this asap

  • Matt

    Funny how the government says they have to debate who will decide. umm, no one, the government just needs to get out of the way and stop legislating through personal morality. We have laws against violence, For your safety is never about safety it’s about control.