Michigan Bill Would Legalize Marijuana, Help End Federal Prohibition in Practice

A bill introduced in Michigan last week would authorize marijuana to be taxed and regulated similar to alcohol, legalizing the plant, and effectively blocking in practice the federal prohibition on the same.

House Bill 4877 (HB4877) was introduced on Sept. 17 by Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) along with six co-sponsors. If this bill is successful, Michigan would become the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes through the legislature rather than the popular vote.

The bill would legalize and regulate the “cultivation, processing, testing, possession, and use of marihuana for nonmedical purposes… for use by individuals 21 years of age or older.” It also removes criminal penalties for the following activities:

"(a) Possessing, using, displaying, purchasing, or transporting marihuana accessories or 1 ounce or less of marihuana.
(b) Possessing, growing, processing, or transporting 12 or fewer marihuana plants that exceed 12 inches in either height or diameter and possessing the marihuana derived from those plants on the premises where the plants are grown. This subdivision applies only if the plants are grown in an enclosed, locked space and not openly or publicly displayed.
(c) Transferring 1 ounce or less of marihuana to an individual who is 21 years of age or older.
(d) Consuming marihuana, if the consumption is not conducted openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others.
(e) Possessing, growing, receiving, or transferring marihuana seed stock or any number of immature plants less than 12 inches in height and diameter that do not have buds or flowers.
(f) Assisting another individual who is 21 years of age or older in any of the acts described in subdivisions (a) to (e)."

Limited prohibitions against marijuana would remain. Distribution of marijuana to individuals under the age of 21 would remain illegal. Driving under the influence of marijuana is explicitly banned as well. Local communities “may prohibit the operation of marihuana cultivation facilities, marihuana product manufacturing facilities, marihuana testing facilities, or retail marihuana stores by ordinance or an initiated or referred measure.”

Excise taxes would start at 5 percent but would increase to 10 percent over five years. Tax monies from legal marijuana would go to fund schools, transportation and substance abuse treatment programs. Licensing fees are not to exceed $5,000 dollars with annual fees not to exceed $500.

The best thing about measures such as HB4877 is that there is little if anything the feds can do to stop them in practice. Congress and the president claim the authority to ban marijuana. The Supreme Court concurs. However, nearly two-dozen states have taken steps to protect the well-being of their citizens by legalizing marijuana to varying degrees anyway.

Whether the feds like it or not, their mandates that have failed for so many decades are being replaced with a more decentralized, compassionate approach that is responsive to the needs of the people. The end of the federal drug war is on its way whether detractors like it or not. Measures such as HB4877 can help grease the wheels on our way toward that inevitable goal!

HB4877 must first pass in the House Judiciary Committee before it can receive a vote in the full state House.