Petition Drive to Legalize Marijuana Moving Forward

November 20, 2017

A group hoping to legalize the recreational use of marijuana announced their plans to submit the required signatures to get the question on the 2018 ballot.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) says it had collected 360,000 signatures for the proposal that needs 252.523 valid signatures from registered voters to make it on the ballot.  They are hoping to ask voters to make Michigan the ninth state to legalize the possession, use and cultivation of marijuana for persons 21 years and older. The proposal would license marijuana businesses that sell, cultivate, transport and test marijuana. It would impose the sales tax on marijuana sold at the retail level and impose a 10 percent excise tax with revenue dedicated to schools, roads and local governments.

The Michigan Chamber opposes the 2018 ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana use because it would threaten an employer’s ability to maintain a safe and drug-free workplace. While traditionally considered a “social” issue, we cannot overlook specific language in the proposal and the issues it creates for employers and the workplace. Our concerns include:  

  • No explicit statutory protections for employers. The proposal lacks specificity on a host of questions related to drug-free workplace policies and employer rights. 
  • No impairment test. There is no on-demand test for marijuana, so employers are forced to rely on blood and urine tests, which don’t reliably provide information about present impairment. 
  • Open-ended liability. Employers have a responsibility under OSHA to protect all employees, but there’s no way to regulate marijuana in the workplace outside of current drug testing protocols. 
  • Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Entities receiving federal funds or regulated by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation would still be subject to testing consistent with the federal Drug Free Workplace Act which requires drug-free workplace policies for marijuana and other drugs. 
  • Higher number of failed drug tests. In Colorado and Washington, where voters legalized marijuana in 2012, positive test rates for marijuana were up 20% and 23% in the first year. With pre-employment drug screening, legalization could create retention and hiring challenges. 
  • No way to make the language “bulletproof.” Even if the ballot language specified that private employment or employment-related programs wouldn’t be regulated, there is no way to make the language secure enough to protect employers and workplace safety in all scenarios. 

How this Proposal Could Become Law in Michigan – If the Secretary of State certifies that proponents have gathered more than 252,523 valid signatures for their initiative in a 180-day period (which began on May 1, 2017 when they officially started collecting signatures), the measure will go before the Legislature, which will have 40 days to act. If the Legislature takes no action or rejects the proposal, it goes before voters in November 2018. The Legislature also could adopt the proposal as-is (no amendments) at which point it becomes law or they can put a competing proposal on the ballot.  If competing proposals appear on the ballot, and both garner more than 50% support, the proposal with the most yes votes becomes law.

More information can be found in our issues center. Please contact Wendy Block with any questions at wblock@michamber.com