Why Republicans Should Enact the Adult Cannabis Legalization Ballot Proposal

Posted In: Politics, , Opinion,   From Issue 859   By: Greg Schmid

21st March, 2018     0

Adult Cannabis Legalization Proposal will qualify for the ballot November 6, 2018.

The REGULATE MARIUANA LIKE ALCOHOLpetition drive turned in 362,000 signatures to put a responsible adult marijuana legalization proposal on the ballot on November 6, 2018. They needed just 252,000 signatures to get on the ballot, so there is little doubt that the proposal will be approved, submitted to the legislature, and ultimately placed on the ballot this fall, as provided in Michigan’s constitution. An historic ballot question of this sort could drive high turnout among youth voters and the so-called “unreliables,” (the Democratic Party’s term for many partisan Democrat voters who turn out in Presidential elections but almost never vote in midterm elections).  This ballot question could spell disaster for the GOP, which presently dominates all three branches of Michigan government, unless the state legislature gets the issue off the ballot somehow. Fortunately, the Michigan Constitution provides an elegant solution to their dilemma: the legislature may enact the proposal when it is submitted to the legislature and avoid placing the proposal on the ballot.

Adult Cannabis Legalization Proposal Support At 61%.

This month the adult marijuana legalization proposal hit the magic 60% mark in terms of voter support. 61% of likely Michigan voters now support the cannabis legalization measure, according to the EPIC-MRA poll conducted last month on behalf of Michigan NORML, the statewide affiliate of national NORML (National Organization to reform Marijuana Laws). 56% of Republican men now back legalization of recreational marijuana. This is not surprising in that many republicans are limited government civil libertarians. 74% of Democrats favor legalization. 72% of independents now support legalization, up from 50% last year. 87% of youth voters aged 18 to 34 support the proposal – this demographic always undervotes, but the youth vote would surely come out in droves to legalize cannabis, which they consider a generational issue.

Republicans had better consider whether youth would vote for republican candidates. Our own Bay area region showed the most support for adult cannabis legalization at 79%. According to a Yahoo-Marist poll, 83% of voters support medical marijuana laws. This should not be surprising, since the majority of the Americans live in states that have legalized medical marijuana. Medical marijuana legalization has borne out the truth about the therapeutic and palliative benefits of cannabis, and almost a generation later society has accepted that the pesky side-effect of a mild euphoria is no more a sin than enjoying wine, without the hangover.

How the ballot question would affect other races in Michigan.

Landslide voter approval for the measure appears almost inevitable, and that would likely influence the results of legislative, gubernatorial, attorney general, and even local commission races. In fact, that seems to be the strategic plan of the REGULATE MARIUANA LIKE ALCOHOL group, which has formed a PAC to support candidates and has already endorsed Democrat Dana Nessel for Attorney General. Michigan still has straight ticket voting. Republicans survive this disadvantage because the GOP has consistent reliable voter turnout, whereas Democrats often fail to turn out for mid-term elections. If the proposal is on the ballot this fall, the liberals who don’t generally vote in mid-term elections could be motivated to turn out in vastly increased numbers. This might sweep Republicans from power, just in time for the redistricting process. "Ballot measures can increase voter turnout 3-6% and have the capacity to prime voters’ attention to an issue, to the point that a ballot issue may influence voters when they evaluate candidates," says Paul Jacob, president of Citizens In Charge, a national think tank that promotes the initiative process. "This is especially true when the proposal appeals to demographics that typically don't come out to vote.”

Republicans already own cannabis reform policy – they should not give it away.

The Republican party-dominated legislature that crafted the 2016 MMMFLA (Michigan Medical Marijuana Facilities and Licensing Act) which created rules from scratch that allowed licensing for the cannabis provisioning facilities that are now starting to open all over Michigan. It is the GOP that has tried to make moderate reforms to the 2008 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act since that law was approved by the voters 10 years ago, hamstrung by the ¾ supermajority vote required to amend voter approved ballot initiatives like the MMMA. Republicans have been at the forefront of responsible cannabis reform because it is good policy. Reagan-republicans like Milton Freidman and George Schultz railed for decades against cannabis prohibition as counter-productive and irrational. Today’s Republican establishment has Orrin Hatch endorsing marijuana as a cure for opioid abuse; and other conservative and moderate Republicans like Michigan’s congressman in the 6th Fred Upton, James Sensenbrenner (former Judiciary chair), and Mick Mulvaney (Director of the Office of Management and Budget). Republicans generally advance limited government and personal responsibility and recognize that it is not government’s place to punish people who choose cannabis like others might choose legal beer or wine.

The Prohibition Era ended in 1933, but not until America learned a hard lesson in unintended consequences. Public academia has overstated and redefined the concept of addiction to exploit budgetary priorities, which provide government grant seekers with low-hanging fruit, and government bureaucrats at many levels maintain with job security. Education and parenting time are the cures for drug and alcohol abuse, not a one-size-fits-all approach of heavy-handed policing and criminal records that rob youthful offenders of their future.

Enacting the “REGULATE MARIUANA LIKE ALCOHOL” proposal is wise policy.

The constitution provides the legislature a 40-day window of opportunity to enact initiative proposals (Article II, Section 9). If the legislature enacts a proposal, it is not subject to the governor’s veto. This is precisely why republicans have pursued the prevailing wage repeal by petition initiative; Snyder vowed to veto the legislation that would repeal prevailing wage. When and if prevailing wage petition signatures are approved, the state legislature can enact that proposal without the veto. The Adult Cannabis Legalization proposal, if enacted by the legislature during their 40-day window of opportunity, would be subject to later amendment by the legislature by a mere majority vote.

According to our constitution, if adult legalization goes on the ballot and is approved by the voters, then legislature would need a full ¾ vote of both houses to amend the law later. Given the seeming inevitability of voter approval, it is reasonable for the legislature to enact the measure first, even if they think it is flawed, just so that they could more easily fix the law later.

The lessons of the past 10 years, with the implementation problems that plagued the 2008 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, show the wisdom of staying in control of the legislative process later by enacting the measure now, if only to keep the door open for changes in the new law by ½ majority, instead of a ¾ supermajority vote. There are radical elements in each party, and some party squeaky-wheels who fall hook line and sinker for the spoon-fed government propaganda of the past 100 years would do well to rethink old conclusions and reconsider a policy of tolerance towards cannabis users. Almost as many people use cannabis as drink beer, after all, and harsh marijuana laws have accomplished nothing but to waste billions in taxpayer dollars every year. It turns out that good people do use marijuana, and almost everyone knows and loves someone who does.

Americans should be building bridges, not burning them; being judgmental about cannabis tends to divide rather than unite. Bad policies on cannabis, and the false perception that most Republicans agree with those policies, may tend to make thoughtful young people reject the GOP for failure to live up to their free-market limited government ideals. Republicans know that maintaining a focused limited role for government means prioritizing the essentials; the state cannot and should not try to account for personal tastes. Prohibition laws seem petty and officious to most Americans. Many agree that drug laws reward the criminal element they seek to repress by creating a vacuum that the black market can fill, then making dealers rich enough that they can afford to buy off the justice system. Laws that don’t respect people breed people who don’t respect laws. Prohibition undermines the rule of law by squandering the credibility and legitimacy of government.

Enacting the adult marijuana legalization proposal is smart politics for the GOP.

From a pure self-preservation standpoint, the smart move for Republicans to make is to enact the adult cannabis legalization proposal during the coming window of opportunity. If Republicans fail to do so, voters will come out in record numbers, and many will tend to vote for Democrats. Opposition to marijuana reform will be like a Chinese finger knot; the more you struggle the tighter it gets. Republican candidates would be forced to take a side in this issue, and the lack of sound authentic reasons to oppose adult legalization would reflect badly on candidates who try to skirt the issue. There simply are no compelling reasons for treating cannabis differently from Beer and Wine.

There are a couple of opposition groups in Michigan, and their failures should be a roadmap for Republicans to avoid political pot holes. If Republicans enact the adult legalization proposal, even if only to maintain the ability to fix any perceived flaws in the measure later without needing a ¾ supermajority to do so, they would significantly reduce the motivation for the “unreliable” Democrat voters to come out and change the whole tenor of the election this November.  If voters are not forced to come out and make history this fall, then Republicans may just be able to keep hold of their domination of state government. Right, wrong, or indifferent, enacting the adult cannabis legalization proposal is the right move to prevent Democrats from using the ballot proposal to sweep away the Republican majority and statewide offices this fall.




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