What you're voting for: Michigan's ballot measure to legalize marijuana

On November 6, Michigan voters will have the chance to decide whether marijuana can be used recreationally by adults 21 and older -- just like alcohol.

Come Election Day, voters will see on their ballots Proposal 1, a ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana and regulate it like alcohol. It was drafted by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, or CRMLA, which collected more than 250,000 signatures from Michigan residents to put the initiative before voters.

If the measure passes, Michigan would join nine other states and Washington, D.C. to legalize marijuana and become the first Midwest state with an adult-use marijuana law.

Proposal 2: Michigan's ballot measure to remodel redistricting
Proposal 3: Michigan's ballot measure to add voting options to constitution

Ballot measure history

Before getting into what this ballot measure actually does, let’s go over how and why we'll be seeing it on the ballot come November. Getting an initiative on the ballot in Michigan can be difficult -- supporters only had 180 days to collect 252,523 valid signatures from voters. (By the way, if that number seems arbitrary, it comes from 8 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election.)

With the help of National Petition Management, a petition drive management firm that collected the signatures, the CRMLA successfully collected and submitted more than enough signatures in April 2018.

After signatures are submitted, the initiative doesn't go straight to the ballot -- the Michigan Legislature has the opportunity to pass it themselves. They have 40 days to decide whether to adopt or reject the proposal.

If lawmakers want to change the initiative in any way -- passing it before goes to voters would make that easier. They only need a majority vote to change laws that the legislature adopted, but they need a three-fourths vote to change laws that voters adopted.

In the case of Proposal 1, legislative leaders say they were unable to get the votes to pass the measure before the June 5 deadline, so they didn't take up the measure at all. Because legislators did not act, the measure was sent to the ballot and will be up for voters to decide on Election Day.

What Proposal 1 would do

State ballot measures create a law and this one would be called the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. Proposal 1 would essentially do the following: regulate marijuana like alcohol and establish a regulatory system, allow people to grow their own plants, create a tax on marijuana sales with revenue that would go toward some of Michigan’s needs, and decriminalize some marijuana-related infractions.

How much could you have?

The measure would allow people who are 21 years or older to possess up to 2.5 ounces while outside their homes. At home, they could have up to 10 ounces and they could grow up to 12 plants, but marijuana in amounts more than 2.5 ounces would have to be locked up.

How would it be taxed?

The measure would establish a 10 percent tax on marijuana sales -- and that’s on top of the 6 percent state sales tax we already have. First the money collected would be used to implement, administer and enforce the new law -- an amount that is not specified in the text of the measure. Then a provision in the ballot measure requires that for at least two years, $20 million of the marijuana tax revenue must be spent on one or more clinical trials that research the use of marijuana to treat veterans and prevent suicide. 

Then, after those expenses, the remaining balance would be used for the following:

  • 35 percent for the School Aid Fund for K-12 education
  • 35 percent to the Michigan Transportation Fund to be used for repair and maintenance of roads and bridges
  • 15 percent to municipalities that allow marijuana businesses. The amount given to one municipality is determined by how many marijuana establishments there are. 
  • 15 percent to counties where marijuana businesses are located, allocated in proportion to how many businesses are in the county

Where would it still be legal?

Municipalities would be allowed to ban or limit marijuana businesses within their boundaries, and could adopt ordinances to restrict things like public signs promoting marijuana businesses, when the marijuana businesses could operate and where, etc. Additionally, individuals themselves could petition to keep marijuana establishments out of a city.

In terms of law enforcement, people under 21 found in possession of marijuana would be given a civil infraction. First violation for someone under the age of 18 would elicit a fine of not more than $100 or community service, forfeiture of the marijuana, and completion of four hours of drug education or counseling. If the person is 18 order older, a fine of not more than $100 or community service, and forfeiture of the marijuana.

It would still be illegal to smoke or consume marijuana while driving or in a public place where it is prohibited by whoever owns, manages or occupies the property. But municipalities could designate areas where marijuana could be consumed that people under 21 wouldn't be allowed into.

Employers would not be required to make accommodations for marijuana users and would not be banned from drug testing.

Read the full text

If you read the full text of the ballot measure we provided below, you'll find it outlines a lot of specific details regarding marijuana in Michigan. For example, the text says that the measure would not authorize cultivating plants if they are visible from a public place without the use of aircraft, binoculars or other optical aids, or outside of an area that's locked or has functioning security devices.

With all of those intricate details that aren't necessarily mentioned in the summary you'll see on the ballot, it may be a good idea to read the text in its entirety before heading to the polls to make sure you know what you're voting for.

What you'll see on your ballot

While the actual text of the measure is a few pages long, full of details and provisions, measures are displayed on the ballot by name, a quick summary, a few bullet points and an option to select YES or NO.

This is what it will look like, you can also click here.


Full text

As stated above, measures are summarized on the ballot but the actual text of the measure is typically quite long. The full text explains all the finer details.

According to the group behind the measure, CRMLA, this is the text in its entirety:



Like any other issue, there are groups for and against ballot measures. Keep in mind that most marijuana proposals are different -- with different rules, regulations and provisions. So while someone may support legalizing marijuana, they may not like the way the ballot measure wants to do it. The same with opposing a measure -- someone may not want marijuana legalized, but may support it if done a certain way. What you as a voter have to decide is if you support or oppose the way Proposal 1 legalizes recreational marijuana.


The political action committee that is leading the campaign for Proposal 1 is the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, led by former state Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor as political director. According to their website, found here, it is a committee formed specifically to support this ballot measure that includes citizens, businesses, community leaders and organizations.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol say they drafted the initiative with several groups including the Marijuana Policy Project, Michigan NORML, American Civil Liberties Union, MI Legalize, Marijuana Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, Michigan Cannabis Coalition and the National Patients Rights Association.

Supporters say Proposal 1 would add roughly $130 million in tax revenue annually to be used for schools, road repairs and municipalities. CRMLA released a report early October estimating the combined tax revenue from legalizing marijuana in Michigan would be upwards of $520 million within the first five years. That tax revenue includes a 10 percent excise tax on retail sales and the already existing 6 percent sales tax. Click here to read that report in its entirety.

According to a Senate Fiscal Agency analysis, proponents contend Michigan spent about $91.4 million on efforts to prohibit the possession, sale and use of marijuana -- and that despite those efforts, marijuana use has remained relatively consistent. They argue pot is safer than other substances that can be legally purchased. " According to the Trust for American's Health, in 2015, Michigan's alcohol-induced death rate was 9.9 per 100,000 (ignoring alcohol-attributable deaths related to injury and violence). Preliminary data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services hows that, of the 2,729 overdose deaths in Michigan in 2017, over 1,900 were from opioids. In contrast, there have been no recorded deaths resulting from an overdose on marijuana," the analysis states.


The group leading the campaign against Proposal 1 is called Healthy and Productive Michigan. It was organized by Scott Greenlee, former vice chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, and serving as spokesperson is Randy Richardville, former Republican majority leader of the state Senate. The other group that officially registered in opposition of the measure is The Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools. At least two other organizations, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action (SAM Action), oppose the measure as well.

Richardville argues the 10 percent excise tax wouldn't generate enough to pay for the law enforcement resources the measure would require, according to Ballotpedia. He says allowing 2.5 ounces too much and that the proposal does not include any language that protects children from edibles like Gummy Bears and lollipops.

According to the Senate Fiscal Agency analysis, opponents argue recreational marijuana legalization could be detrimental to public safety. Some believe increased access to marijuana may lead to more people getting behind the wheel while under the influence. Others contend legalization may have a negative affect on business and the labor force. Employers are often required to test job candidates for drugs by an insurance provider, because an individual impaired at work is a risk. Some argue if more people are smoking marijuana, it may be more difficult to find candidates who could pass a drug test and therefore make it harder to find a qualified applicant.

Marijuana on the ballot in the U.S.

Since 2012, recreational marijuana has been legalized in nine states. First in Colorado and Washington, then two years later it was Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., next was California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada in 2016, and finally Vermont in 2018.



Eight of the states saw legalization through ballot measures, while marijuana was legalized in Vermont through the legislature. In recent history, two ballot measures that would have legalized marijuana failed -- one in Ohio in 2015 and another in Arizona in 2016.

This year, Michigan and North Dakota are the only two states that will decide on legalizing recreational marijuana. Pot is legal for medical purposes in 31 states, and this year, Oklahoma, Utah and Missouri voters will decide on ballot measures concerning medical marijuana.

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