Dec 22, 2020

What Are Your Politician’s Views on Cannabis? Everything Michigan Voters Need to Know

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Michigan might have gone blue this election, but which of our representatives are green? Michigan has been slowly moving toward marijuana legalization since the state voted on a ballot proposal to allow physician-approved use of marijuana for certain medical conditions, aka medical marijuana, in 2008. Following the legalization of medical marijuana, dispensaries began to open in the Great Lakes State in 2009, with more and more politicians voicing their support of decriminalization of weed at a recreational level.

Today, both recreational and medical marijuana is legal in the state of Michigan. As of 2018, anyone over 21 years of age can possess cannabis in public, at home, and even grow it themselves. Legal recreational dispensaries, like RAIR, are able to operate and sell weed to anyone over the age of 21, but despite forward progress, there are still advances to be made. Currently, approximately 80% of municipalities, over 1,400 in total, have opted out of allowing recreational marijuana sales in their communities, and thousands of people are still in jail for offenses that would be legal today. So where do our representatives stand on these issues? And how do they plan to progress even further? 

We looked at the previous voting records and current stances of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Senator Gary Peters, and Senator Debbie Stabenow on marijuana legalization, so you can know who has your best interest at heart.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) 

Governor Whitmer has served as Michigan’s 49th governor of Michigan since 2019, after serving in both the Michigan House of Representatives and in the Michigan State Senate. Historically, Governor Whitmer has supported the legalization and forward progress of recreational and medical marijuana in Michigan. 

She attended the state’s Hash Bash event to advocate for cannabis legalization on the 2018 ballot while she was running for governor. Her pro-weed efforts are clearly illustrated in her backing of Proposal 1, which state voters approved in November to legalize recreational weed. After its successful passing in 2019, she released a video with a statement supporting the legal cannabis program. 

“We worked hard, we got it done, we made recreational marijuana legal in the state of Michigan,” she said, “I am proud of the work we did to pass Prop 1.” Governor Whitmer has also worked to support dispensaries by establishing the Marijuana Regulatory Agency to make sure the state efficiently regulates both medical and recreational marijuana. She continues to make an effort to aid and support those small businesses who, thanks to the state’s poor regulation, were forced to shutter. 

Following Governor Whitmer’s determined efforts in partnership with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, the state voted to allow dozens of dispensaries to reopen. In a statement by Whitmer, she explained her reasoning: “We have heard from Michiganders closely affected by the ongoing transition to licensed marijuana facilities. It is important that we ensure that patients have access to their medicine while the medical marijuana industry continues to develop.”

Going forward, Governor Whitmer has declared her intent to pursue legislation that would free inmates who have been convicted of cannabis-related offenses and expunge their records. “I think that the people of Michigan have said that for conduct that would now be legal,” said Whitmer. “No one should bear a lifelong record for that conduct.” 

Our rating? Five nugs. 

Senator Gary Peters (D)

Democratic Senator Gary Peters recently won reelection in Michigan, and has served as the junior United States Senator from Michigan since 2015. His reelection was the result of one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races, with him ultimately defeating Republican John James for the seat. 

Over the course of his career, he’s voted on several issues pertaining to marijuana legalization and regulation. As early as 2010, Peters voiced support for enacting medical marijuana in Michigan without federal interference. In 2014, Senator Peters voted to prevent banks from being penalized for providing financial support to marijuana businesses, an amendment that passed with 77% of the vote. That same year, he voted to pass an amendment that prevents federal agencies from keeping states from authorizing the use of medical marijuna. 

In a statement to VICE, Peters’ spokesperson explained his support of medical and recreational marijuana is due to the benefits of taxing the revenue from marijuna sales and the importance of letting the people decide what’s best for them. “Michiganders have the right to decide this important issue, and Senator Peters supports the ballot initiative effort… to legalize marijuana for recreational use,” said the statement. “Senator Peters believes this change will generate desperately needed tax revenue to support Michigan’s deteriorating schools and aging roads and bridges, and prevent people who use marijuana from ending up in the prison pipeline.”

More recently, Senator Peters cosponsored the SAFE Banking Act of 2019, which would allow banks to work with cannabis businesses that are legal at the state level.  That said, his voting record isn’t entirely green. Senator Peters voted against a bill that would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend medical marijuana to their patients, and against ending cannabis prohibition at the federal level.

Our rating? Three nugs.

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D)

Senator Debbie Stabenow secured her re-election for a fourth six-year term during the 2020 election. The state's first female U.S. Senator, Senator Stabenow has been serving Michigan since 2000. Despite her “hard on drugs” reputation, her voting records show she’s been a supporter of the state’s legalization of marijuana. 

In 1998, Stabenow voted against subjecting federal employees to random drug tests, and against prohibiting medical marijuana in Washington D.C. in 1999 while she was serving as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Even though her voting record is positive, Senator Stabenow is still viewed as relatively neutral on her stance for the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana. When asked to voice her opinion on marijuana laws for a 2018 article in VICE, a spokesperson responded for her saying, “It’s time to decriminalize medical and recreational marijuana.” The statement included, “It’s also important to move forward thoughtfully and work closely with law enforcement, public health officials, business leaders and communities to ensure we get this right and avoid unintended consequences.”

But voting records don’t lie. She might not be outspoken about her support, but she voted to pass legislation that would allow banks to support cannabis businesses, to allow VA doctors to prescribe medical marijuana, to allow states to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis, and to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level. 

Our rating? 4 nugs. 

All things considered, it seems Michigan is in pretty good hands. We’d roll up with any of these politicians and feel good about doing it.

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