GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Coming off the high of having passed recreational marijuana in Michigan with 56 percent of the vote, advocates are now coming face-to-face with the reality that their fight is not over.
The majority leader in the Michigan Senate is calling for changes in the voter-approved proposal that decriminalized marijuana.
The proposal introduced in the legislature's "lame duck" session has caused an uproar among those who worked to get the initiative passed.
“This is not a good bill," said Tami VandenBerg who was at the forefront of the fight for legalization and is now speaking out against this 75-page bill that makes changes to the proposal passed by voters. “We need to make sure we protect our law, it’s the people’s law, we voted for it and we won with a nice margin.”
The most significant change is it would strike the potion of the proposal that allows people older than 21 to grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal use.
State Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said his proposal creates regulation for marijuana and keeps it from infesting neighborhoods.
Meekhof, whose district represents all of Ottawa County, was not available Friday, but his office provided 24 Hour News 8 with this statement:
“The state regulates alcohol and tobacco and it should also regulate marijuana. He respects the voters' desire to decriminalize marijuana use, but he believes it still requires the state to regulate the substance.”
VandenBerg does not buy the rationale by the senator.
“This seems like ‘we know better than the citizens,’ this is incredibly patronizing to me, this is insulting,” she said.
Vandenberg said the ban on plants for personal use would mean that people would have no way to legally obtain marijuana since it is still at least a year before any businesses selling marijuana would be operational.
“What better to keep just a thriving black market?” she said.
The bill would also reduce the tax on marijuana sales set in the proposal at 10 percent down to 3 percent.
VandenBerg said that a significant portion of the proposal’s support was from people who were not interested in marijuana but did want to see more funding for schools and roads.
“At some point you just have to think who exactly are these folks representing? Is it the people or is it just massive business interests or is it some ideology, where is this coming from?” VandenBerg said.
She said the bill ignores the will of the voters.
“We had robust debate all over the state about this, we had experts on both sides, thoroughly discussed this proposition and the citizens voted,” she said.
VandenBerg said she believes the bill is being supported by opponents of marijuana and corporate interests who want to control this emerging market.
“We didn’t want this to be only massive businesses, only large corporations can control this, that’s exactly what we didn’t want and that sounds like the intention here,"” she said.
In order for the bill to change the proposal, it would require three-quarters of the members in both the state Senate and House of Representatives to be on board, and most believe the votes are not there.
Nevertheless, VandenBerg said complacency is dangerous and suggests people let their representatives know how they feel.
24 Hour News 8 is working to answer your questions about legal recreational marijuana. Send yours to ReportIt@woodtv.com.