Evan Space, a long-shot Republican from Lansing and military veteran, said he wants to provide better access to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Shri Thanedar, an Ann Arbor Democrat and scientist, said science supports legalization. Bill Cobbs, a former Detroit police officer, said has been a failure.
“Most cops don’t want to arrest people for marijuana because we understand what it does to somebody’s life when we give them a criminal record this insignificant,” Cobbs said.
MI Legalize leader Jeff Hank said forum participation by five gubernatorial candidates is evidence of “a cultural change we’re undergoing here” in Michigan and told activists the event made
prohibition him emotional.
Attorney General Bill Schuette, the early favorite for the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination, led the campaign against Michigan’s medical marijuana law in 2008 but has distanced himself from the more recent legalization debate. Schuette has said he is concerned legalization could increase youth access to marijuana but has repeatedly called it an issue that voters should decide.
Political candidates are taking note of public opinion polling showing growing support for marijuana legalization in Michigan, said MI Legalize political organizer Sam Pernick, predicting the 2018 ballot measure could encourage first-time or rare voters to go to the polls.
Pernick said forum organizers tried to identify candidates supporting legalization but also invited Schuette to the event. While he did not respond, Schuette was repeatedly mentioned, with Whitmer of East Lansing arguing the attorney general has “thrown up barrier after barrier” between medical marijuana patients and their medicine.
“This is an opportunity to go a step further and say, here in Mi- chigan, we’re going to embrace the legalization, but we’re also going to grow our economy,” Whitmer said. “We’re going to create real clear rules so that we can do this so that we don’t leave patients, we don’t leave small business owners to fend for themselves.”
Thanedar, a businessman who is largely self-funding his campaign, argued the next governor needs to make sure “big business doesn’t hijack” the prospective le- gal marijuana industry.
“We’ve got to make sure we support the small businesses, we support the entrepreneurs and we fight any kind of attempt by the federal government to take away people’s rights,” he said.
While marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, voters in eight states have approved recreational use laws.
Under the potential Michigan ballot proposal, marijuana retail sales would be taxed at 10 per- cent, plus sales tax, with the new revenue going to K-12 schools, road repairs and participating cities and counties.
Space noted the would also legalize hemp farming.
“Let’s turn it into an agricultural boom,” he said. “Michigan already grows corn. Why not turn our state greener and improve our environment?”