Irwin introduces bill to legalize, tax marijuana

Thursday, September 17, 2015

LANSING – State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) introduced legislation today to legalize marijuana in Michigan for adults 21 years and older. House Bill 4877 was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and creates a system of licensed cultivators and retailers while protecting local governments’ ability to ban or zone appropriately for marijuana-related businesses.

“My bill builds on the practices modeled by Colorado, regulating marijuana much like alcohol,” Rep. Irwin said. “This bill provides a path for marijuana to come out of the black market, making our communities safer.”

In light of recent ballot proposals and the nationwide movement towards reform, the conversation about marijuana legalization is heating up in the Legislature.

“Prohibition has been a colossal failure,” Irwin continued. “It costs us hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and it doesn’t work. Instead it increases crime and fuels violence. It’s time for Michigan stop wasting taxpayer dollars on prohibition and regulate marijuana. This will give us greater control over the product, take business away from criminals and refocus police resources on the most dangerous crimes.”

Under Irwin’s proposal, individuals could grow a small number of their own plants, but only licensed establishments that meet security and product safety standards could sell marijuana. Also, this bill would give communities the authority to ban or zone appropriately for marijuana sales or cultivation.

“Let’s give communities the tools to regulate appropriately and make sure at a state level that consumers are protected by ensuring reputable sales and standards for labeling,” Irwin said.

HB 4877 also imposes a tax on marijuana sales. The proposal would charge a 5 percent excise tax on the wholesale market with a 1 percent per year escalation. In five years, the excise tax would freeze at 10 percent. The revenue from this excise tax is allocated so that 40 percent would go to roads, 40 percent to early childhood education and 20 percent to substance abuse treatment programs. Consumers would also pay a 6 percent sales tax at point of sale. Based on a comparison with Colorado, Michigan could expect to see about $100 million in new revenue each year.

A poll by the Glengariff group puts Michiganders support for legalizing and taxing marijuana at 56 percent, and opposition at 36 percent.

“I hope that my colleagues will join me and the majority of our constituents to support taking the marijuana trade out of the hands of criminals,” stated Irwin. “In the open, we can do a better job of protecting consumers, keeping marijuana away from kids, and taking profits away from the criminal underground.”