A day after Michigan voters legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, a group opposed to the proposal is vowing to fight the law and to urge local governments to ban pot businesses.
Healthy and Productive Michigan has argued that marijuana legalization has consequences, and on Wednesday in news conferences in Lansing and Detroit it turned up the volume on its view that the law will bring Michiganders problems.
Among them, they said, are: Insurance costs will go up as a result of more marijuana-related driving fatalities and workplace injuries. It will be harder to find drug-free workers. There will be a rise in crime and homelessness. And young kids will be put at risk.
Still, efforts to roll back the law statewide — which is part of a trend nationwide — may be a quixotic quest as public opinion polls show an increasing number of Americans support pot legalization.
"The results are now in," Scott Greenlee, president of Healthy and Productive Michigan, said Wednesday. "It's clear the people of Michigan have voted to approve Proposal 1 and legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan, a decision that our committee and our partners think is extremely misguided and likely misinformed."
The law, which passed with a 56 to 42 percent margin, makes Michigan the first state in the Midwest to legalize weed for recreational use. The law is expected to take effect in early December, but weed won't be commercially available for sale until 2020.
Under the new law, folks 21 years old and older can possess up to 2.5 ounces of pot or up to 10 ounces at home. They can grow, but not sell, up to 12 plants for personal use. Landlords can still prohibit plants and smoking.
Michigan is the 10th state to legalize recreational pot. Colorado approved recreational use in 2012. Thirty-two states, including Michigan, allow the drug for medicinal use, and Canada legalized it last month.
Moreover, a survey earlier this year from the Pew Research Center in Washington, found 62 percent of Americans say marijuana should be legalized, a steady change from the 1990s when only 16 percent believed in legalization.
On Tuesday, Missouri and Utah voters approved pot for medical purposes, while voters in both Nebraska and North Dakota rejected pot legalization proposals.
The Michigan anti-pot group said Wednesday it will continue to challenge the legislation and try to prevent what it calls the establishment of Big Marijuana, the drug's widespread commercialization.
Rich Studley, CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, will take a different tack to deal with the passage of the ballot proposal he called, “a clever marketing scheme” that suckered voters into approving it.
“We probably won’t be working with opponents initially, but we’ll be working with the new administration to try and minimize some of the obvious problems with implementing this,” he said. “Regardless of what the voters decided, the day this law takes effect, marijuana will still be illegal at the federal level and all the surrounding states. In Michigan we’re proud to be the Great Lakes State. Hopefully, voters may have second thoughts about making this the Gray Haze state.”
Still, a local government focus may be the most successful pathway for opposition.
"We heard overnight, me in particular, from a number of communities around Michigan, literally 20 or 25, that were essentially saying, 'This is awful. How do we opt out?' " Greenlee said, declining to name specific municipalities. "We know from past experience in Colorado the vast majority of the state from a municipal standpoint has opted out."
The anti-pot group said that in Colorado, about 75 percent of municipalities have opted out of legalization, and the group said it was confident communities in Michigan would opt out as well.
Even before the election, Michigan communities have been grappling with questions about allowing medical marijuana.
Michigan municipalities can ban pot businesses, but not home growing or use.
As of Aug. 1, only 103 of the 1,773 cities, villages and townships in Michigan had agreed to allow medical marijuana businesses in their communities, according to an unofficial list compiled by the state Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation.
The Legislature also can amend the proposal with a three-fourths vote.
The group also suggested that commercial grow operations would transform rural areas, encourage more organized crime and put the health of kids in danger as edible marijuana products — which look like candy — are introduced.
"We put all of our energy and resources into educating voters so hopefully we wouldn't have to be at this place," Greenlee said. "But, we are are going to look at it full steam and full speed ahead at this point and explore every option from a legal, policy and practical standpoint."
Even as early returns suggested the measure would pass, the group said on Tuesday the new state law was out of step with federal rules, which also have faced public pressure.
Under President Barack Obama, federal prosecutors were urged to adopt a hands-off approach to state-legal pot. That was rescinded, however, under the Trump administration, which has taken a harder stand on prosecuting marijuana cases.
Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug control policy adviser and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said Tuesday's election was the "beginning of the war" and emphasized that groups would continue to resist the law.
"I am as confident as I've been in any state that the majority of Michigan communities will reject pot shops at the local level," Sabet said. "Whether we are talking about this at the legal level or local level, we aren't leaving the state."
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Where pot is now legal
In addition to Michigan, states that have legalized pot for recreational use: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and Washington, D.C. In addition, 32 states, including Michigan, now allow marijuana for medical use.