When the clock strikes midnight on Wednesday, Michigan will become the 10th state in the Union to allow the consumption of recreational marijuana.
In November, nearly 60 percent of Michiganders voted in favor of Proposition One, which permits adults over the age of 21 to own up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants in their homes. Public use will remain illegal.
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In exchange, the state will leverage a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sales, which a pro-legalization group projected would raise as much as $130 million in annual revenue.
"The legalization of the adult use of marijuana in Michigan represents a victory for common sense public policy, while delivering yet another body blow to our decades long failed prohibition on marijuana," said Erik Altieri, executive director of pro-legalization group NORML. "Instead of continuing to arrest over 22,000 citizens a year for marijuana related charges, Michigan will now be able to reallocate precious law enforcement resources to combat violent crime while respecting civil liberties and advancing racial justice."
Although sales will also be legal, those looking to actually purchase marijuana from a storefront will need to wait. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has up to 12 months to begin accepting licensing applications to run a marijuana-dispensing business; a pro-legalization group claimed in November that it could be more than two years before the sales regime is up and running.
Michigan cities and towns will now also have the option to opt in or out of permitting sales of marijuana within their jurisdiction. The drug was already decriminalized in multiple places, including Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids. But many smaller towns may opt to weigh the potentially adverse effects of sales, especially in communities with many children.
"Our experience in other legalized states, including Colorado, California, and Massachusetts, is that the overwhelming majority of towns have banned pot shops in their communities," said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president and founder of pro-decriminalization, anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action. "Research has shown that marijuana stores drive down property values, increase crime in adjacent areas, and increased use within a short distance among at-risk kids. We will continue to educate Michiganders on the community impacts of marijuana stores."
Legalization skeptics like Sabet are likely to find themselves increasingly fighting their battle on this local level. Michigan was one of three states to pass pro-marijuana ballot initiatives in 2018—both Missouri and Utah voted to create a medical marijuana regime. (North Dakota, however, blocked recreational legalization across the whole state.) Sixty-six percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, support legalization.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law; but, instructions from former Attorney General Jeff Session notwithstanding, federal law enforcement generally does not target marijuana use and avoids stepping on state laws unless absolutely necessary. President Donald Trump, himself a famous teetotaler, has signaled a degree of permissiveness on the issue, saying he would "probably" support the STATES Act, a Senate proposal to devolve marijuana's legal status entirely to the states.