Michigan Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis

Michigan Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis

The news will bring the Midwest its first adult-use cannabis market, likely sometime in 2020.

November 7, 2018

Michigan voters approved Proposition 1, legalizing recreational cannabis, by a neat 56-44 margin, according to unofficial election results. The voter approval marks Michigan as the first state in the Midwest to legalize adult-use cannabis—and the 10th state in the country to do so.

"The Proposal 1 campaign boiled down into one of fact versus fear," Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol spokesman Josh Hovey said in a public statement following the win.

New York Times election results, as of Nov. 7

In the immediate sense, the vote is indeed an historic milestone for cannabis reform in the U.S. Michigan residents 21 and older will soon be able to carry 2.5 ounces of cannabis on their person—and possess 10 ounces of cannabis at home. Ultimately, cannabis retail sales will be tagged with the state’s 6-percent sales tax and a 10-percent excise tax. Municipalities may opt out of future cannabis sales, which is the case with the state’s medical marijuana market, as well.

But there are plenty of initial steps that need be taken before this adult-use market becomes reality.

“It’s not going to be an earth-shattering change,” Jeffrey Hank, an attorney who helped get the ballot measure in front of voters, told the Detroit Free Press. For now, it’s a matter of decriminalization. “Adults will no longer be arrested for simple possession and use of marijuana.” 

 As the newspaper reports, the state won’t likely see an operational adult-use cannabis market until 2020. Following approval of Proposition 1, the state must design a regulatory scheme and issue licenses to cannabis businesses.


Even today, the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is in the midst of a protracted medical marijuana licensing process. (Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borello halted an Oct. 31 deadline for medical marijuana businesses to be licensed; he’ll provide an update in that case on Nov. 9.) 


“Proposal 1’s passing in Michigan is a major domino for the cannabis movement and freedom in general," Jeffrey M. Zucker, President and Co-Founder of Green Lion Partners, told Cannabis Business Times. Michigan has the opportunity to set the example for the remainder of the Midwest while bringing in tremendous tax revenue for schools, governments, and infrastructure. It wouldn’t be surprising to see nearby states like cash-strapped Illinois move this way in the near future.”


While the only other state with an adult-use question on its ballot this year, North Dakota, did not see success, the Michigan news is hailed as a bellwether of continued cannabis reform as industry stakeholders and cannabis business owners look ahead to 2019 and, inevitably, 2020. The margin of victory in Michigan and the growing national support for cannabis reform (66 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll, points to more good news in the offing.)


"This is yet another historic election for the movement to end marijuana prohibition," Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a public statement. "Voters have once again sent a message loud and clear that it is time to legalize and regulate marijuana. The victory in Michigan highlights just how widespread support is for marijuana policy reform. This issue does not only enjoy strong support on the coasts, but also in the Midwest and all throughout the country. Marijuana has now been legalized for adult use in one out of every five states, so I think it's safe to say federal laws are in need of an update. We hope the results of this election will inspire Congress to finally start addressing the tension that exists between state and federal marijuana laws in our nation."

Top photo courtesy of Adobe Stock