The Board of State Canvassers gave approval Thursday to a new proposed ballot effort to amend the state constitution to fully legalize recreational use of marijuana without taxing the drug.
The proposal from Abrogate Prohibition Michigan of Midland would nullify all laws prohibiting or regulating the use of marijuana and impose no fines, taxes or penalties on its use.
"I call it the Second Amendment of cannabis," sponsor Timothy Locke told the Free Press, comparing it to the U.S. constitutional provision granting the right to bear arms.
The Legislature would still have the power to tax and regulate cannabis, but no such measures would be required as part of his constitutional amendment, he said.
The board voted 4-0 to approve only the form — but not the substance — of the petition, and not before one of the four board members questioned the organizers' intent.
Colleen Pero, a Republican appointee to the board, questioned a provision that would make the change retroactive
"I don't understand what they're trying to do," Pero said. "I don't see how something can be retroactive of this magnitude."
Locke was not able to attend Thursday's meeting and nobody else from the committee was there to address Pero's question.
Locke told the Free Press the measure would be retroactive to about 1970, when he said cannabis was first criminalized at the state level. Anyone imprisoned only for state marijuana crimes would be subject to release and criminal records would be expunged, he said. The proposed amendment would have no effect on federal drug crimes, Locke said.
An earlier marijuana legalization proposal, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has already gathered more than 100,000 of the 252,523 signatures it needs to put the question on the November 2018 ballot, spokesman Josh Hovey told the Free Press in July.
That earlier proposal would initiate state legislation, but not change the state constitution. The new proposal, OK’d on Thursday, would require 315,654 signatures, as a constitutional amendment.
Hovey said Locke's proposal sounds irresponsible.
"We just can't imagine Michigan voters supporting this proposal," Hovey said in an e-mail. "The public expects responsible marijuana regulation that includes licensing, quality control and assurances that minors will not be able to access it."
Locke, a semi-retired laborer who has used marijuana to control back pain since 1980, said his plan would help Michigan's economy by generating business since cannabis can be used to make 50,000 different products.
He said his effort will be a grassroots one without paid signature collectors and he hopes to start collecting signatures in about one week.
Also, Thursday, the board approved a constitutional amendment petition organizers say is aimed at ending political gerrymandering in Michigan, and a legislative proposal, from a group called MI Time, which would require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees under certain conditions.