While Wisconsin voters in 16 counties and two cities will cast ballots in cannabis advisory-only referendums Nov. 6, voters in Michigan are expected to approve a proposal to legalize adult use of cannabis in the state the same day. And while passing Wisconsin’s advisory referendums, paired with electing some new faces from governor on down will certainly have an impact on state cannabis laws, so will having a neighboring state where cannabis will be legally available at dispensaries right across the Michigan-Wisconsin border. Michigan voters previously passed a state medical cannabis ballot initiative in 2008.
Here is the full text (PDF) of the Michigan initiative. According to the official ballot summary, if passed, Michigan Proposal 1 would:
Allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption.
Impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers.
Create a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them.
Permit retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10% tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located.
Change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.
Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan share a roughly 235-mile long border that stretches from Lake Superior in the west to Green Bay in the east. Dozens of roads cross the border and a number of the sparsely populated UP’s larger cities which may have cannabis storefronts after legalization like Menominee, Watersmeet, Iron River and Iron Mountain sit on or close to the border. Lambeau Field in Green Bay is about an hour drive from the UP border. The Michigan shore is just a short boat ride across Green Bay from Wisconsin’s Door County.
The strong possibility that cannabis may be legally available right across Wisconsin’s border and accessible to any Wisconsin adult has already triggered a lot of hysteria among some in the state law enforcement community and some elected officials. In Dec. 2017, the Marinette Wisconsin city council passed an ordinance intended to preemptively address the potential of Wisconsin legalizing cannabis at some point in the future. Marinette sits right across the river marking the border between the two states. On the Michigan side sits the city of Menominee. Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot told WBAY Action 2 News, “Law enforcement doesn’t need this drug on top of all their other issues they have, and we’d like to prevent that from happening locally- even if it does happen at the state level.”
In a July 15, 2018 report from Green Bay’s Fox11 News on the “impact of Michigan marijuana on Wisconsin,” Wisconsin State Assembly Rep. Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton) had a much more sensible response, telling Fox11 if Wisconsin were to legalize marijuana there wouldn’t be an issue at the border. “I think people are just afraid of it, for so long there’s been talk about marijuana being this gateway drug…the only gateway is really hanging out with people who do drugs in the first place,” said Stuck.
The latest Marquette Law School Poll from August 2018 found that 61% of Wisconsinites now support cannabis legalization shows a solid majority of state residents are supportive of adult use legalization. Past polling has found overwhelming support for legalizing medical cannabis in Wisconsin. Ten of the 16 county advisory referendums ask voters if they support medical use.
It is clear that attempts to somehow interdict Wisconsinites bringing legal Michigan cannabis into Wisconsin will go about as well as attempts to interdict oleomargarine when Wisconsinites flocked to Illinois and other states to buy the butter substitute after Wisconsin banned it as a competitor to butter.
But, as Rep. Stuck noted, if Wisconsin also legalized cannabis, these concerns would be moot. State law enforcement is going to have to come to terms with the fact cannabis prohibition is quickly crumbling not just around in the Midwest, but also around the country, and internationally, with Canada becoming a huge player. While 8 decades of anti-cannabis propaganda may not be easy to let go, it’s time to accept it and focus on higher priorities than keeping a beneficial plant out of people’s hands.