Questions and Answers About Marihuana Legislation
By David Cahill, Attorney at Law
Q. How does an initiative differ from ordinary legislation?
A. Ordinary legislation is enacted by the Michigan Legislature. But Article II, Section 9 of the Michigan Constitution reserves to the people the power to enact laws directly by popular vote. This initiative power allows citizens to act where the Legislature has failed or refused to do so. Marihuana legislation is a classic case of the people acting in the face of legislative failure.
For example, our Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) was enacted by initiative in November, 2008. Our MILegalize proposal will be on the ballot in November, 2016 if we get enough petition signatures. We need 8% of the number of all votes cast for governor in 2014.
Q. Why should I care about the initiative process?
A. The Constitution says that an initiative enacted by the people can only be amended by a vote of three-fourths of the members of each house of the Legislature. (An initiative can also be amended by another initiative.)
So it will take an unusual consensus vote of the Legislature to amend either our existing Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, or our proposed initiative. The three-fourths requirement is an important protection of the people’s will. There are enough marihuana-friendly legislators now to prevent the sabotage of an initiated law. There have been a few changes in the MMMA in the past few years, but these have been purely technical and have had the overwhelming support of both Democratic and Republican legislators.
One of the bills in the three-bill medical marihuana package that recently passed the House—House Bill 4210—would amend the MMMA by legalizing “medibles”. This is a badly-needed change, and was approved by a nearly unanimous vote of the House.
Q. Does the recently-passed House Bill 4209 conflict with our MILegalize initiative?
A. No. HB 4209 is the latest attempt by the Legislature to clarify the legal status of dispensaries. It has several deeply troubling features. But if it should become law, it will not conflict with our initiative.
This lack of conflict is because HB 4209 only deals with medical marihuana. Our initiative is broader, and deals with marihuana use for any purpose. The system created by HB 4209 and the system created by our initiative can exist side by side.
Both HB 4209 and our initiative would create independent acts. Neither amends the other, or any existing act. They are not legislatively related.
Q. Can the Legislature sabotage our initiative by passing a statute tampering with it in advance?
A. No. Both the MMMA and our initiative create new acts that are independent of any other acts. However, it is possible to propose an initiative that does not create a new act, but rather amends an existing act. If MILegalize had taken this route, then we could have been at risk.
In this situation, the Legislature could have amended the existing act so that the amendments to the act proposed by the initiative would not fit the amended act, but would result in a bunch of words that made no sense.
However, our initiative is an independent, new act. It does not depend on any other acts. So we are free from legislative sabotage.
There is nothing the Legislature can do to stop us.
Paid for with regulated funds by the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee, P. O. Box 1358, Lansing, MI 48933.