Officially, the 10th state to do so, as of the November 6th election, Michigan became the first midwestern state to legalize recreational marijuana use. There are now roughly 80 million citizens of the United States that live in places that allow the recreational use of marijuana. And, a recent Gallup Poll (October 2018) stated that two out of three American adults support the legalization of the drug.
The new Michigan law allows adults (anyone 21 and over) to grow, possess and use marijuana, but it’s not allowed everywhere, all the time.
- When and where to refrain: The actual places that marijuana can be consumed are very limited. You may not use the drug in public places. So, streets, sidewalks, parks, parking lots and vehicles would not be places to choose to fire one up! An exception to the rule would be consuming marijuana in a designated public place for consumption where minors are prohibited.
- At home: Your castle, your call, right? Not if you rent your home. Check your lease. Most stipulate no drug use. If that’s the case, the owner of the property just pulled rank on you.
- Legal limits: A person, aged 21 or over, is allowed to possess, use or consume, internally possess, purchase, transport, or process 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana, except that not more than 15 grams of marijuana may be in the form of marijuana concentrate.
- Buzzed driving: The answer is no. It remains illegal to operate or navigate a motor vehicle, aircraft, snowmobile, off-road vehicle, or motorboat while under the influence. It has not been decided how it will be determined if one is driving under the influence of marijuana. Mouth swab testing to detect the drug is being used successfully in some counties according to James Linderman, Emmet County Prosecuting Attorney.
- At the workplace: Your employer reserves the rights here. If you work at a drug free workplace, then you need to be drug free or you risk being fired.
- Flying high: Do not take marijuana on an airplane! There are federal laws prohibiting it. You can read what the Transportation Security Administration has to say on the matter. It’s a risk you don’t want to take. And, oh, by the way, they were talking medical marijuana!
- Obtaining Marijuana: It will take awhile to get licensed establishments up and running, so don’t expect to hit the shop soon. The wait could be a year or longer. But, never fear! It may be illegal to buy and sell from unlicensed sources, but there’s no penalty for giving it away. If you are given some seeds or cuttings, you may grow your own. However, you will want to check the restrictions for doing so. Each residence is allowed to grow up to 12 plants and have 10 ounces in their possession.
Where do the prosecutors fit into this mix?
One of the main questions asked of county prosecutors since the election is what does this mean for low level possession cases that were pending prosecution before the law went into effect? Some have indicated they will dismiss most, if not all, such cases, but that is not true of all county prosecutors.
There are, at least, two that are definitely not of this mindset.
Emmet County Prosecuting Attorney James Linderman has stated that there will be no blanket decisions made. At the time of arrest, all defendants were accused of committing a crime. The plan in Emmet County is to treat each case individually before a decision as to whether or not to proceed is made. Determining factors will include the nature of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history, as well as others.
He went on to say that while driving under the influence will remain against the law, he forecasts many changes over the next few years regarding how law enforcement will determine whether or not a person’s driving is impaired.
Charelvoix County Prosecuting Attorney, Allen Telgenhof, plans to move forward with all cases that were charged prior to election day. At the time the charges were made, the law was being broken. The proper channels in place for proceeding to trial at that time will be the plan for following through.
Both men, also, stated they will continue to prosecute all marijuana charges that fall outside the realms of the new law.
The big picture
Well, it may still be a little out of focus. But, the people have spoken. On November 6th, recreational marijuana use passed in Michigan with a majority rule percentage margin of 56-44. Now, it is up to we, the people, law enforcement and our state government to work together and find the happy medium.
The first major step will be putting the guidelines in place for licensing before marijuana shops will come into play. You can expect strict regulations. Don’t be surprised if you are still (patiently) waiting for the shops to open up a couple of years from now. If we use Colorado’s timeline as a reference, voters approved recreational marijuana in the November, 2012 election, but it didn’t become legally available for sale until 2014.
No matter how much time it takes, Michigan will join the nine other states that have passed recreational marijuana use and forge the way. With so many adults in favor of legalizing marijuana, more states are sure to follow suit.
Change is inevitable in life. Some good. Some bad. But, many view the legalization of marijuana as a good change. They believe that marijuana is much less harmful in many ways when compared to alcohol. Time will tell, of course. It always does.
Working together to figure out the particulars can tip the scale toward this being a very positive change for Michigan and, ultimately, the entire country.