Michigan becomes first Midwest state to legalize recreational marijuana

MANISTEE COUNTY — Michigan voters made their state the first in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana, passing Proposal 1 with a 56-44 percent margin.

The ballot measure approved in Tuesday’s election allows people 21 or older to buy, grow and use marijuana, however voters should expect a wait before the law is in effect, and marijuana is readily available.

In Manistee County, 5,938 votes approved the measure, and 5,756 votes were cast to deny it.

Ten days after election results are certified, in about a month’s time, the Michigan law will likely take effect. The election first has to be certified by the Board of State Canvassers.

Marijuana will not be commercially available for sale in what could be at least two years from now. Officials say the state must place regulations and issue licenses for recreational sales.

Law enforcement also has a long road ahead, Manistee County sheriff John O’Hagan said police agencies will have to consider training options, and how to monitor its use on the roads.

“We are going to focus first on the training and experience that we currently have in the short term,” he said. “Any additional training we can offer law enforcement officers will be beneficial to any investigation by keeping the officer’s skills on the sharp side.”

As the law soon takes effect, there are a few details Michigan residents should know before lighting up or growing marijuana.

How much marijuana is OK? 

With Proposal 1, Michigan law will allow people 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of marijuana on them, and up to 10 ounces (284 grams) at home. However, amounts over 2.5 ounces need to be secured in locked containers.

Residents are able to grow, but not sell, up to 12 plants in their home for personal use. Although, those who have a license will be able to grow more.

Types of licences include: Marijuana retailer; marijuana safety compliance facility; marijuana secure transporter; marijuana processor; marijuana microbusiness; Class A marijuana grower authorizing cultivation of not more than 100 marijuana plants; Class B marijuana grower authorizing cultivation of not more than 500 marijuana plants; and Class C marijuana grower authorizing cultivation of not more than 2,000 marijuana plants.

Marijuana could also be gifted to someone else who is of age, but not sold without a license.

What’s still illegal 

While the measure changes several current violations from crimes to civil infractions, there are still a few details the public should know.

Not only will it be illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase or use marijuana, it also will remain illegal to use marijuana in public. Police will be able to arrest people they suspect are driving under the influence of marijuana, or if the individual is using marijuana in public.

Marijuana is prohibited from use on K-12 school grounds, landlords are still able to prohibit smoking and growing plants on their properties, and employers could also maintain a zero tolerance policy for marijuana use.

Where to buy recreational marijuana

Under the new law, marijuana plants cannot be visible from a public place, so do not expect to be able to plant it in a garden around the house.

People will be able to purchase marijuana or edibles from state licensed businesses. However, a city would be able to decide if they want to allow them in their municipality. Marijuana will be taxed at 10 percent — plus the existing 6 percent sales tax — put toward implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located.

Although the state has a head start on the rules, as infrastructure is in place regulating the medical marijuana industry, it could still possibly be a few years until marijuana is for sale.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will work on developing rules and regulations to govern the recreational marijuana industry. Those already with medical marijuana licenses are able to get recreational licenses right away, when it becomes fully legal.

An uncertain future for law enforcement 

Training measures for officers are already in the works, O’Hagan said Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement Training (ARIDE) is the first step.

“This provides officers with general knowledge in relation to drug impairment; training them in observation, identifying and articulating the signs of impairment for both alcohol and drugs,” he said.

However, issues still loom with roadside testing of THC levels, while marijuana-impaired driving is not legal and a threshold has not yet been established, as it has been for alcohol with blood-alcohol concentration level regulations.

“The biggest challenge is we don’t have a roadside test at our disposal at this time to determine the amount of drugs within the system,” said O’Hagan. “With marijuana and THC levels, there is no way we can determine how much THC is in their system. Are they beyond impaired? Will one or two joints/marijuana cigarettes or vapors produce impairment?

“That all depends on the THC level and the person, because everyone will be different. There is no ‘threshold’ as with alcohol.”

Police might also expend more time and resources to determine whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana, O’Hagan said.

“Officers will, on occasion, be spending more time on the road with subjects suspected to be under the influence,” he said. “Not everyone we encounter who has smoked marijuana prior to be driving will be considered ‘intoxicated’; however, extra time will be spent by the officer in determining that level of intoxication.”

Despite this, O’Hagan said officers are bracing for the change, until a solution is met.

“This won’t always be easy, which makes this so difficult,” said O’Hagan. “My biggest fear is on the roadways… We certainly don’t want to send someone down the road who was intoxicated or under the influence of a drug.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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