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Meekhof Doesn’t Say ‘No’ To Voting On Marijuana Legalization

April 25, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) answered neither “yes” or “no” when a reporter asked him: “What do you think of the notion of the Legislature taking up the marijuana legalization issue in order to keep it off the ballot?”

“We’ll see when it gets through the Secretary of State and canvassers,” Meekhof responded. “We’ll see if that has any merit and we’ll see it they have the signatures. It looks like they do. We’ll let the folks do their work on it and if it comes to us in a timely fashion.” 

Rumors and claims have been making the rounds in Lansing recently that, if the marijuana legalization initiative petition signatures submitted to the Secretary of State by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) are found to be sufficient and the Board of State Canvassers certifies the proposal, the GOP-controlled Legislature will take action to keep it off the ballot. 

Polling shows that, if on the ballot, the proposal would start out with the support of about 61 percent of likely voters. It’s argued (although disputed in some quarters) that having the measure on the ballot in November would lure large numbers of recreational marijuana supporters to the polls. Supposedly, most of these “free the weed” voters would tend to vote for Democrats. Thus, the theory that — to serve their own political ends — the Republicans will find a way to prevent the proposal from going before the voters. 

Keep in mind that this sort of maneuver has happened previously, and not long ago. Twice in recent years Republican-controlled Legislatures have knocked minimum wage hike proposals off the ballot by passing their own version of minimum wage increases — most recently in 2014.

There might be more than one theoretical legal means of keeping the marijuana proposal off the ballot, but seemingly the most straight forward way would be to simply approve it during the 40-day period in which the Legislature is allowed to take it up. Because the measure is a voter-initiated proposal, the lawmakers would be given that opportunity. 

However, arranging passage of such a proposal might not be so easy. Would enough Republicans be willing to vote “yes?” Which chamber would take the step of trying to pass it first — the Senate or the House? 

“Do you think that’s a vote you would want to take?” a reporter asked Meekhof Wednesday morning. 

He didn’t respond to that question. However, the Majority Leader clearly had more to say on the overall subject Thursday than he did the previous Thursday when — in response to a reporter asking him about the legislature possibly pre-empting the marijuana legalization proposal — Meekhof said, “I haven’t even thought about it, yet.”

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