NORML supports the right of adults to use marijuana responsibly, whether for medical or personal purposes. All penalties, both civil and criminal, should be eliminated for responsible use. Further, to eliminate the crime, corruption and violence associated with any “black market,” a legally regulated market should be established where consumers could buy marijuana in a safe and secure environment.
NORML also supports the legalization of hemp (non-psychoactive marijuana) for industrial use.
Michigan NORML supports the following national positions and the strategic efforts of NORML to implement those policies. We do our best to replicate those strategies to reinforce our positions with local voters and policy makers.
From a statewide perspective, Michigan NORML addresses many of the same issues our national parent organization deals with and we support the positions they have staked out above. In addition, Michigan also face unique issues that are specific to our state and our law. Below are the TOP TEN policy issues that most concern us and an explanation of how we’re trying to influence those policies.
ISSUE 1 – LEGALIZATION
Michigan NORML fully supports the legalization and regulation of cannabis products for adults, and the rights of adults to consume, cultivate and possess cannabis products in a responsible manner. Notice we don’t say the word “use”! Today, the term “use” makes most people think of “illicit use”, and we have to change the language of our conversation so that regular people begin to understand that consuming legal cannabis products is OK.
In this context, legalization means a fair and regulated cannabis industry that provides opportunities for entry that are equal and attainable to average people, not just millionaires. Additionally, it means that adults over 21 years of age should be permitted to consume, cultivate and possess cannabis products in a responsible manner. This definition also includes the ability for any individual to cultivate, process and sell cannabis products from a roadside stand in front of their home, or to state-licensed cannabis businesses, so long as the cannabis being transacted meets all state regulations for testing and packaging. Michigan NORML board members have lobbied legislators and testified before state panels and committees to make this position very clear to our policy makers.
All cannabis intended for commercial sales should be subjected to standardized testing and packaging requirements, and any person or company should be permitted to participate at any level in the marketplace they may choose. And we do not believe that people who have been convicted of a so-called cannabis crime should be prohibited from participating as either a business owner, employee or retail consumer in the cannabis marketplace. Many of those people helped pioneer state industries and should be rewarded, not penalized for their bravery. That is what Michigan NORML means when we say legalization. Again, this is a message our legislators hear from us every time we communicate with them!
Our position on regulation is that some is needed for commercial operators to ensure product quality and proper packaging, but we also understand that too much regulation leads to inflated consumer prices and a stifling of competition. We lobby for policies that achieve the former and against policies that move in the direction of the latter when we engage policy makers! We also believe that while regulating the conduct of cannabis consumers from a municipal perspective may be beneficial to communities, we do not believe that municipalities should have the authority to regulate personal consumption, cultivation and possession to such a degree that cannabis effectively remains illegal in those municipalities.
Ultimately we seek to strike a harmonious balance between the wishes of the many against the rights of a few and craft local and statewide regulatory policies that make sense for everyone. That’s been the hardest message for us to communicate because policy makers are more influenced by law enforcement lobbyists and entrenched bureaucrats than they are by the pleas of cannabis consumers, and many cannabis consumers seek new rights and privileges that policy makers won’t even discuss with us! But this is what we do and we are finding common ground, we don’t intend to stop any time soon but we do need the support of Michigan cannabis consumers to beat back our intrusive government. Please consider joining Michigan NORML today, or make a donation to help us win the war on cannabis!
ISSUE 2 FEDERAL LAW
Michigan NORML is deeply concerned by the new approach our Department of Justice is taking towards federal cannabis policy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recension of a policy guidance document known as the Cole Memo, in addition to his inflammatory statements about cannabis consumers have sounded a very loud alarm!
Michigan NORML heard those alarm bells and we jumped into action! First, we sent a letter to every member of the Michigan Delegation to the United States House of Representatives and Senate. We expressed our outrage with the Department of Justice’s action and asked our Congresspeople to support specific legislation that would protect state cannabis programs. We invite you to participate in this campaign and send a letter to your congressional representatives urging them to support legislation that would allow each state to administer their own cannabis programs. Click here to send them an email.
Next we implemented a social media campaign to educate cannabis consumers and our non-consuming supporters about where there U.S. Congressperson stood on the cannabis issue. In January of 2018, we launched a two-week campaign that consisted of a daily social media blast that profiled one legislator and one District. The remains of that campaign can be found here if you would like to share information about your Congressperson’s view on cannabis with your family and friends.
The examples above are just some of the steps we take to engage our federal legislators. We will continue to create and implement fresh and relevant social media and letter writing campaigns periodically, and we will continue to engage our U.S. Congresspeople and Senators on this issue via email, snailmail and face-to-face contacts until federal law in no longer an impediment to state cannabis programs. Ultimately, we would like Congress to completely remove raw cannabis products that are not specifically marketed as a treatment option for a specific medical condition from Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.
There are currently several proposals that have been introduced in Congress that fall far short of our ultimate goal, but do accomplish significant portions of our vision. Please click here to find out about other bills you can support that will protect state cannabis programs and the people who participate in them. It take less than 5 minutes to send a quick email to your legislators about one or all of the bills on this list and we really need your support!
ISSUE 3 – ASSET FORFEITURE
Michigan’s asset forfeiture program is down right offensive and it’s been repeatedly misused and abused by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in many Michigan jurisdictions for decades. This program currently incentivizes police misconduct by allowing them to keep the assets they seize from cannabis consumers during an encounter. The police also strongarm people and conflate charges, then they use the person’s own assets including family homes, cars and heirlooms as leverage to help them extract a confession. Sometimes they return the assets as part of a plea deal, sometimes they don’t, but the point is, nobody should ever lose an asset if they have not been convicted of any crime, and nobody should ever lose an asset regardless if they have ever been charged or convicted of a so-called cannabis crime!
There is no comprehensive state policy guiding how forfeitures must be reported, nor how the items seized are to be accounted for and stored. Most narcotic task forces operate without any departmental or legislative oversight. They often operate on the fringes of the law or beyond to help them pad their arrest and seizure stats. After all, the United States Department of Justice distributes it’s grant awards to states based on cumulative arrests and seizures. These abuses are a direct conflict of justice and common sense, but law enforcement lobbyists are powerful forces in Lansing and many legislators have backgrounds or friends in public safety so we’re constantly fighting an uphill battle.
Michigan NORML is currently working with Representative Peter Lucido on legislation to reform the asset forfeiture program by requiring defendants to be convicted of a crime before their possessions could be forfeited to law enforcement. Contact your Michigan House of Representatives member today and ask them to support HB 4158 [action needed].
ISSUE 4 – THE PATIENT TAX
On Thursday, January 18, 2018, the State Department of Treasury issued REVENUE ADMINISTRATIVE BULLETIN 2018-2 outlining tax procedures for medical cannabis businesses, patients and caregivers. We oppose the unauthorized implementation of a 6% PATIENT TAX by the Department of Treasury on transactions that take place between patients and caregivers who are connected through the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program (MMMP) registry, and demand that the bulletin be revised accordingly.
The Michigan Department of Treasury is exceeding its authority by implementing a new “PATIENT TAX” that requires registered patients to pay a 6% use tax on medical cannabis purchased from their caregiver. Initiated Law 1 of 2008, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA), did not grant any specific taxing authority to the State of Michigan or the Department of Treasury with regard to medical cannabis transactions authorized by the MMMA. Because of the Headlee Tax Amendment, it would require either a vote of the people to implement a tax on the transactions between patients and caregivers who are connected through the MMMP registry and that has not happened. Section 4(f) of MCL 333.26424 states a “caregiver may receive compensation for costs associated with assisting a registered qualifying patient in the medical use of marihuana”, and also that “any such compensation does not constitute the sale of controlled substances”.
Additionally, the protections in Section 4(a) of MCL 333.26424 prevent the Department of Treasury from implementing a tax on patients. Section 4(a) says that “A qualifying patient who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card is not subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for the medical use of marihuana in accordance with this act…” Clearly, a new PATIENT TAX is a penalty, and lastly, in subsection (e) of MCL 333.26427, the statute states, “All other acts and parts of acts inconsistent with this act do not apply to the medical use of marihuana as provided for by this act.”
In an April 2011 letter, Director of Bureau Tax Policy, Glenn R. White indicated that
“The MMA re-characterizes what otherwise might be a taxable sale of tangible personal property as a non-taxable caregiver service”, and that “The MMA does not authorize either a regulatory or enforcement role for the Department of Treasury.”
The evidence is substantial against the validity of this new policy and Michgan NORML has marshaled all it’s resources to repeal the PATIENT TAX!
ISSUE 5 – MUNICIPAL ORDINANCES
Michigan NORML has a mixed view on the issue of local ordinances. We support the popular concept that municipalities should have the final say on if and how any commercial cannabis business should operate within it’s borders. That position comports with our view that states should decide there own cannabis policy, not the feds. Additionally, because each township has the ability to participate and authorize commercial cannabis businesses themselves, it’s unlikely there will be wide areas of the state with no consumer access to cannabis products.
One troubling trend we are seeing now is municipalities testing their authority to pass zoning ordinance amendments aimed at regulating state-registered patients and caregivers. A landmark Michigan Supreme Court ruling struck down a City of Wyoming ordinance amendment that conflicted with the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. That ordinance that virtually banned medical marijuana from being grown or used within city limits by patients and caregivers. Since then, several other municipalities have passed similar ordinances but only a few have dared to cite violators and have been forced to defend their amendments in court.
We believe the guidelines established in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act protecting patients and caregivers who grow and consume cannabis at their homes with support from Ter Beek v Wyoming, that municipalities will ultimately abandon this underhanded tactic and instead work towards a legislative solution if they really believe that patient and caregiver grows are a problem. It’s safe to assume that many municipalities are looking past medical marijuana and are bracing themselves for a future where every homeowner in any given municipality could grow at least 12 plants legally at their residences!
Michigan NORML will continue to monitor this issue as it continues to unfold. If we see what we believe to be a problem developing, we will address it at every level of government, and tap into our supporter network to let policy makers know where cannabis consumers stand on this issue!
ISSUE 6 – DRIVING
The driving issue is extremely difficult because it has so many facets. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Michigan NORML does not oppose reasonable efforts by cops to determine if someone is too impaired to drive during a roadside or public encounter if the cop has a legitimate and reasonable suspicion that the person may be impaired. We also support reasonable penalties for people who are too impaired to drive because we want impaired drivers off the road too. Unfortunately what we are seeing is a reckless application of this statute by cops and prosecutors, and too many people who tested positive but were not impaired at the time of the encounter, have paid a heavy price for bad policy.
The first angle we’re dealing with is Michigan’s archaic zero-tolerance for THC driving law. Right now, if you are a cannabis consumer that does not have a medical marijuana card and you find yourself in a roadside encounter with a cop and he or she believes you are under the influence of cannabis, you will probably be placed under arrest and your blood will be drawn without your consent. If you have any presence of a particular cannabinoid metabolite in your blood, you will be convicted of DUID. The Michigan Supreme Court found that motorists could be prosecuted under the state’s DUID law for having detectable levels of non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in their blood – even though the presence of such metabolites are not associated with driver impairment, and are not defined under the statute as an illicit substance. Michigan NORML intends to work with all legislators who can help us repeal the zero-tolerance law in 2018!
The Michigan State Police recently implemented a new pilot program to try and detect drivers who have cannabis in their systems. In five counties, Berrien. Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw, select State Police Troopers have been equipped with a kit that includes mouth testing swabs and a portable testing device designed to check for the presence of cannabis. Michigan NORML strongly opposes this intrusive and inaccurate device as a reliable way of determining if someone is impaired by cannabis. Initial testing here in Michigan show the machine is less than 87% accurate. The machine can be calibrated to be cause lots of false-positive readings, a fact even the manufacturer admits. These machines are not like a standard breathalyzer, Troopers don’t receive nearly enough training to use this equipment that essentially performs a laboratory test on the side of the road. We have many objections to this technology and the so-called drug recognition experts (DRE’s) who administer the testing and we will vigorously fight any continuation or future expansion of this flawed and unnecessary program. We are monitoring this program closely!
Michigan NORML is constantly embattled in an informational war with voters, policy makers and our opponents over the driving issue. Anti-cannabis groups like Project SAM have effectively distributed a report issued by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) group to policy makers across the country that tells half-truths and uses alternative math to paint a dark picture of a state besieged with highway carnage as a result of cannabis-intoxicated drivers. Many of the claims in this report about the impact legalized cannabis has had on Colorado have been disproved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the AAA Traffic Safety Foundation. We are presently exploring ways to better communicate our message and to reverse the impact the Rocky Mountain HIDTA report has had on policy makers in our state.
As you can see, driving and cannabis present some difficult challenges from an advocacy standpoint, especially when they are heaped upon stacks of other issues that are equally important to cannabis consumers. We’ve prioritized this issue and identified these three main components with a few other minor issues as our mission on this issue. We will develop and implement strategies in 2018 to address all of these components.
ISSUE 7 – EMPLOYMENT
Right now, the employment issue is at a complete standstill and cannabis consumers are on the losing end of a state policy that’s tied to the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. It’s a policy that’s unlikely to change any time soon! One way to look at this issue is that we have hit rock bottom and there’s only one way to go from here. Up! Michigan NORML needs you to help us communicate the message that it was this federal policy that put Michigan employers into this awkward position, not the workforce! Federal law must change before advocates at the state level can seek employment protections for cannabis consumers, so for now, we lobby our Congresspeople. You can help us by sending a letter to your Congressperson that asks them to help protect our state cannabis programs and change federal laws!
While we wait for our federal legislators to do their jobs, we do have a cannabis-employment issue to deal with in this state, and on this issue, we can all make a significant impact just by being a responsible cannabis consumer! Employers are beginning to complain that too many good candidates are passed over because they can’t pass a pre-employment drug screen, largely as a result of cannabis. We anticipate this issue could become even more pronounced for employers after cannabis becomes legal in our state and Michigan NORML will be prepared to address their concern by reminding them that it’s a federal policy that’s impacting their business, not workers. Michigan NORML would like to see employment drug screening go away completely with certain limited exceptions and we hope that an increase of cannabis consumption by the workforce at large will help lead to the end of this intrusive employer practice!
ISSUE 8 – CHILDREN/CPS
Michigan NORML recognizes there are several issues surrounding cannabis and children.
ISSUE 9 – EXPUNGEMENT
After cannabis becomes legal in our state, Michigan NORML will work towards erasing cannabis convictions from people’s record!
ISSUE 10 – PUBLIC CONSUMPTION
After cannabis becomes legal in our state, Michigan NORML will work towards formulating and introducing language that would authorize the public consumption of cannabis.