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Lawmaker to introduce pot legalization bill similar to ballot initiative

Jul 16, 2015

Credit Dank Depot / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

  A Democrat in the state House plans to introduce a bill that would decriminalize and regulate marijuana in Michigan.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, says public support for legalization has reached critical mass.

“You’ve got people on the left who are saying that people should not be having their lives ruined over something like marijuana and you’ve got people on the right who are saying marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs is the granddaddy of all big government programs,” said Irwin.

“It makes sense from a public safety and public health perspective to bring that activity into the regulated space where we can make sure that consumers are protected. And we can also take the hundreds of millions of dollars we’re spending on prosecuting marijuana offenders and direct those resources towards real criminals with real victims.”

Marijuana activists and some political operatives agree with Irwin’s belief that the writing is on the wall for pot legalization in Michigan. At least three groups are working to put the question on the November 2016 ballot.

Irwin says lawmakers have a chance to craft a system that works better than what voters have passed in other states.

“It’s not doing as good a job as they could do in breaking the black market, taking power away from Mexican drug cartels and criminal gangs,” he said.

Irwin says his bill would tax marijuana at a lower rate compared to other states. It would impose a five-percent state excise tax that would rise to ten percent over five years. The Ann Arbor lawmaker says if taxes are much higher than that, it becomes cheaper for people to purchase pot on the black market instead of from licensed sellers.

The bill would be similar in many ways to one ballot initiative – known as MILegalize – which would allow adults to buy and sell marijuana and grow 12 plants each.

Many marijuana activists are skeptical the Republican-controlled Legislature will take up legalizing recreational pot.