By Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
They wore suits and ties and said they hope to raise $1,000 apiece from 1,000 people -- $1 million dollars -- while gathering 322,609 signatures by July 9 as the first step toward legalizing marijuana in Michigan.
At a news conference Friday at Roberts Riverwalk Hotel & Residence in Detroit, a dozen members of the Committee for a Safer Michigan announced the kickoff of their effort to put their legalization question on Michigan's November ballot.
"The time has come to end prohibition of cannabis in Michigan," said lawyer Tom Lavigne of Grosse Pointe Park, coauthor of the ballot language.
The group said it expects legalization to create jobs in a new industry, allow law enforcement to focus on violent crimes, develop a new source of tax revenue for the state and take the business aspects of marijuana away from organized crime. Committee members said polls show Americans increasingly favor easing laws against marijuana, although drug-abuse prevention groups steadfastly oppose it.
"We say no to legalizing marijuana," said Judy Rubin, executive director of the Tri-Community Coalition, a group that works to end youth substance abuse in Berkley, Huntington Woods and Oak Park.
"Do we really want more harmful substances for our youth? We're already doing a pretty poor job with alcohol," she said.
By Kim Kozlowski, The Detroit News
It may be a lot of smoke in the air, but an effort is in the works to try to make it legal for Michigan residents over age 21 to smoke marijuana.
A petition drive is expected to launch this week aimed at asking voters in November amend the state constitution and legalize marijuana.
If enough signatures are collected and the measure were to pass, Michigan would become one of the first states in the nation to abolish criminal penalties for anyone using, growing, selling and delivering what has been a federally controlled substance for decades.
The move also would put Michigan in the forefront of a national movement to end the prohibition on marijuana.
Legalizing marijuana is Michigan's next frontier, activists say, since the state's 2008 medical marijuana law is vague and has lead to chaos among patients and medical authorities and police and court officials in the implementation and enforcement of the law.
Proponents for a change contend that many judicial officials have used their authority to limit the law for those who need it. Meanwhile, they add, the state Legislature has not responded to the confusion.
"The medical law is not working," said Matthew Abel, an attorney who is coordinating the petition campaign. "Rather than try to rebuild that and have more of the same type of problems, we needed to go something broader than that.