Michigan: Politics Law & Cannabis Regulation

Authored By: Matthew R. Abel, Attorney at Law at Cannabis Counsel®, P.L.C.


This political year is starting to heat up in Michigan.  2018 is an election year, and things look good for the ballot initiative proposal for legalization of marijuana to be voted on in November.

The Michigan Bureau of Elections soon ls expected to give the green light to the initiative going forward for the election in November.

There has been some talk that it might be a wise move politically for the Republican-dominated Michigan legislature to pass the proposal on their own, which would keep the measure off the ballot.  Doing so would reduce the number of voters in November, because some significant percentage of voters are expected to show up at the polls only to vote for legalization of marijuana.  Such a move would benefit the Republican ticket, especially in the race for state-wide offices such as U.S. Senate, Governor, and Attorney General.  In addition, if the legislature passes the proposal then they could amend it immediately, where if it is passed by the voters, the legislature is prohibited from amending it for an entire year – enough time for the proposal to be almost fully implemented.

Regardless, most political observers doubt that the Michigan legislature will do any such thing, especially considering the right-wing makeup of both the Michigan House and especially the Michigan Senate due to extensive gerrymandering by the party in power, whereby they created as many safe seats as possible for themselves while minimizing the number of seats likely to go to the other major party.  Another ballot proposal which would greatly revise the process for drawing electoral district boundaries also appears headed for the ballot in November.  Information about that proposal is available at www.votersnotpoliticians.com.

The United Auto Workers Untion have long controlled much of the Michigan Democratic Party.  It is rare for them not to get their way.  So it was an historic and stunning defeat for their anointed candidate for Michigan Attorney General, an African-American former U.S. Attorney from Grand Rapids, to be overwhelmingly rejected by the Michigan Democratic Party “endorsement convention” held on April 15 in Detroit.  The endorsement went to Dana Nessel, a former Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.  She is the only candidate so far endorsed by MILegalize, the volunteer arm of the Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Michigan.  Nessel also was strongly supported by the GLBT community in Michigan, having successfully fought all the way to the United States Supreme Court to establish the right of same-sex couples to marry throughout the U.S.  Ms. Nessel is building a strong campaign, and came out early in the race to support the proposal for legalization, where the opponent initially responded to the issue by stating that he would enforce the law, whatever it was.  Activists who were contacted by the candidate explained to him that a commitment to enforce the law was not nearly enough, considering that the existing law is racist, discriminatory and harmful in so many ways.  That did not sway him, but shortly after Michigan NORML in February released the results of its annual poll on voter support for legalization of marijuana showing 61% in favor, he then changed his position, stating that he had “evolved on the issue” and now also supports legalization.  It was too little, too late, and Nessel did not just walk, but ran away with the nomination preference from the largest gathering of active Democratic Party members in many years.

The Michigan congressional delegation has been slow to do any lifting (heavy or otherwise) to move the agenda in Washington, but many of those members now realize that they will be asked repeatedly about their position on the ballot measure for legalization, and that it is quickly becoming quite unpopular to oppose reform of marijuana laws.  It is possible that, after decades of stalling, there may be some breakthrough in federal marijuana reform legislation.  Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican, had been holding up presidential appointments to federal courts and other bodies, in protest of the anti-marijuana slant pushed by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  In April, Gardner agreed to release his holds in exchange for some type of significant federal marijuana law reform.  It is long past time to deschedule cannabis as a controlled substance, and perhaps that will happen this year.  Right now is a great time to contact the Senior U.S. Senator from Michigan, Debbie Stabenow, who until recently never has made any move to support marijuana law reform.  Senator Stabenow is now running for her fourth six-year term, and apparently needs a push to co-sponsor any marijuana law reform.  Call her office in Washington D.C. at 202-224-4822.


Matthew R. Abel Attorney at Law Cannabis Counsel®, P.L.C.

Lawyers Who Roll The Right Way

2930 E. Jefferson Avenue, Detroit, Michigan  48207



Executive Director, Michigan NORML

Lifetime Member, NORML Legal Committee

Board of Directors, MILegalize

Board of Directors, National Cannabis Bar Association

Secretary/Treasurer, State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section Council


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