11-01-2018 State-wide Ballot Proposals include legalizing recreational marijuana use, 10-year redist

State-wide Ballot Proposals include legalizing recreational marijuana use, 10-year redistricing mandate and voter registration changes; local ballot issues include Coloma Schools operating millage, VanBuren Road  Commission millage and Dowagiac District Library funding

By Annette Christie

Statewide Proposal 18-1 Legalizes Recreational Marijuana Voters will be asked to consider a proposed initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers. This proposal would allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption. It would impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers. A state licensing system would be created for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them. It would permit sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10% tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located. Included in the law would be changes for several current violations involving marijuana from crimes to civil infractions. The Berrien County Police Services Council opposes the passage of the recreational marijuana ballot initiative. In a press release authorized by the Council it states that the ballot initiative that will be presented to the voters is vague and poorly written. This will cause ongoing civil and criminal legal issues just as the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act still does since it passed in 2008. Studies in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, have shown teens use marijuana at a rate 50% higher than the national average and their rate is growing faster than the national average. Both Colorado and California have experienced a 100% increase in marijuana related traffic fatalities following legalization. Traffic fatalities also doubled in the state of Washington in the year following legalization. Driving under the influence of marijuana is particularly problematic for law enforcement as there is not an acceptable chemical test, other than blood, that can be used. This is further complicated by the fact that the specific type of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) that law enforcement needs to test for dissipates rapidly in a person’s blood. The legalization of marijuana edibles also raises serious public safety concerns. Many of these edibles take the form of candy, such as suckers and gummy bears, or desserts, such as cookies and brownies. This poses a threat to young children who are unable to tell the difference from foods containing THC and those that don’t. This is especially troublesome because edibles are usually designed to be consumed over a period of hours or days, not immediately as a whole. While a small bite of a gummy bear may help an adult, a child who eats a handful will likely end up suffering medical consequences. This has been shown in Colorado where there was a 44% increase in marijuana-related hospital visits from 2012 to 2014. “The legalization of recreational marijuana is unsafe for Michigan,” stated the Berrien County Police Services Council. Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic appealed to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners at their October 18 meeting to pass a resolution opposing the legislation. He raised many of the same points as the Police Services Council and was joined by Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit. The board ultimately passed a resolution opposing the passage of Proposal 1 that day. The supporters of the legislation are a coalition effort. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) played a leading role in organizing the drafting committee, which included the ACLU of Michigan, Drug Policy Alliance, MI Legalize, National Patient Rights Association, Michigan NORML, lawyers representing the Marijuana Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, Michigan Cannabis Coalition, and others. The campaign will be made up of a broad coalition of supporters with support from local and national organizations. MPP is the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization and has a large group of supporters in Michigan, thanks to its role in passing the Michigan medical marijuana initiative in 2008. MPP has a strong track record of supporting successful marijuana initiative campaigns. Most recently, it coordinated the successful campaigns to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada in 2016, and it contributed to the successful campaign in California. It also coordinated the campaigns to pass similar initiatives in Colorado in 2012 and Alaska in 2014.

Statewide Proposal 18-2 Constitutional Amendment to redistrict every 10 years A proposed constitutional amendment to establish a commission of citizens with exclusive authority to adopt district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress every 10 years. The proposed amendment would create a commission of 13 registered voters randomly selected by the Secretary of State including four each who self-identify as affiliated with the two major political parties and five who self-identify as unaffiliated with major political parties. It would prohibit partisan officeholders and candidates, their employees, certain relatives and lobbyists from serving as commissioners. It would establish new redistricting criteria including geographically compact and contiguous districts of equal population, reflecting Michigan’s diverse population and communities of interest. Districts shall not provide disproportionate advantage to political parties or candidates. It would require an appropriation of funds for commission operations and commissioner compensation.

Statewide Proposal 18-3 Voter Registration A proposal to authorize automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting, and straight ticket voting; and add current legal requirements for military and overseas voting and post-election audits to the Michigan Constitution. Passage of the proposal would allow a United States citizen who is qualified to vote in Michigan to become automatically registered to vote when applying for, updating or renewing a driver’s license or state-issued personal identification card, unless the person declines. A Michigan citizen could simultaneously register to vote with proof of residency and obtain a ballot during the two-week period prior to an election, up to an including Election Day. A voter could obtain an absentee voter ballot without providing a reason. A voter could cast a straight-ticket vote for all candidates of a particular party when voting in a partisan general election.

Van Buren County Road Commission Millage increase Van Buren County Road Commissioners will be asking voters again to pass a road millage proposal. At the Primary Election in August, the voters in Van Buren County turned down the road millage proposal by an 11.46% margin. “We believe that if we continue to work hard to educate the voters in Van Buren County about why the road millage is being requested, how the proposed millage funds will be used, and what the millage can do for our County, the results in November may be reversed,” said Linnea Rader, Finance Director, Van Buren County Road Commission. Several public information meetings were held in the months approaching the November election date. In addition, Road Commission staff and Commissioners have been attending service club and organization meetings, such as Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, etc., to help educate and to overcome the misinformation out there. The passage of the proposed road millage will allow the Road Commission to bring the primary road system up to an average rating of “good” as defined by the Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rat