Memorandum 1152 | October 2018


Early arguments for the criminalization of marijuana invoked anti-immigrant sentiments and exaggerated potential harms from the drug, linking it to violent crime, insanity, and widespread social chaos. Under current laws, the number of annual arrests for marijuana possession has exceeded arrests for all violent crimes combined, and arrest data reveal stark racial and socioeconomic disparities. Several states have adopted laws in conflict with federal marijuana policy: 31 states (including Michigan) have comprehensive medical marijuana programs, and nine states also have authorized adult recreational use. Marijuana use is on the rise and perceptions of the danger posed by frequent marijuana use seem to be declining.

If Proposal 2018-1 Passes, Michigan would establish a regulatory system for growing, processing, transporting, and selling marijuana and products containing marijuana, to which Michigan’s 6 percent sales tax and a new 10 percent excise tax would be applied. Adult use and possession of marijuana and marijuana products would be legal under state law, but still be illegal under federal law.

If Proposal 2018-1 is Rejected, use and possession of marijuana for non-medical purposes would remain illegal under state law, however Michigan would maintain its current tax and regulatory system for medical marijuana.

Major Issues to Consider: Proposal 1 eliminates state-level criminality of marijuana possession and use, and might be viewed as an important step for individual liberty and/or social justice. A new marijuana regulatory system would provide consumers accurate labeling and protection from adulterants, but this system would not preclude the entry of big business into the marijuana industry nor the potential for regulatory capture, and would not necessarily guarantee the elimination of a black market. Some new tax dollars would be generated from marijuana businesses, however this revenue will not be sufficient to solve the education or transportation funding issues to which it is primarily directed. The proposal does not generate additional resources that will be needed to deal with marijuana abuse/dependence or other public health issues related to marijuana, however legalization may free up some resources currently dedicated to law enforcement, criminal justice, and corrections.

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