Michigan MMJ Legalization Group Collects Cash and Signatures

LANSING, MI — Competing groups seeking to legalize recreational marijuana use by adults in Michigan both say they are off to a good start as they seek to raise funds and collect signatures for potential 2016 ballot proposals. The Michigan Cannabis Coalition (MCC) has raised $273,225 between April 21 and July 20, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state. Most of that money came from Revsix, an analytics firm co-founded by spokesman Matt Marsden. A filing posted Monday evening on the Secretary of State’s website from the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee (MI Legalize) did not show any contributions for the period, but board chairman Jeffrey Hank said there were issues inputing data and expects the problem to be resolved today. The activist-led group raised roughly $170,000 during the period, Hank said earlier Monday, noting a June 26 fundraiser in Ann Arbor and indicating the group has received additional donations since the filing deadline. He said MI Legalize currently has around $202,000 in the bank. “Everything’s going great. We’re on track and moving forward,” said Hank, who ran for Congress last year as a Democrat. “We’ve got a widespread, grassroots, organic kind of donor base.” MI Legalize wants to allow marijuana possession and use by adults, tax retail sales at 10 percent and allow local communities to license marijuana facilities. The MCC proposal would also legalize marijuana for anyone over 21 years old but allow the state Legislature to set the tax rate and establish licensing requirements. A five-member board would oversee the system. Marsden, a former staffer for Republican leaders in the state Senate, said MCC has received a number of pledges from prospective donors. But for now, Revsix is helping seed the effort. The company gave $252,000, and co-founder Dennis Darnoi donated another $21,000. “Look, Revsix is a data company. We do things when the numbers and analytics demonstrate that it’s smart, wise and winnable,” Marsden said. MCC has hired National Petition Management to circulate petitions and has so far paid the firm $225,000 for the effort, leaving it with about $28,000 in the bank. The only number that matters at this point is signatures, said Marsden, who said MCC has collected 45,000 in roughly two weeks time. The committee needs 252,523 signatures to advance its initiated legislation but is aiming for 370,000. “The feedback we’re getting on the street is that people support reasonable regulation and revenue from the legalization of marijuana, and I think that is exactly what the MCC language embodies,” Marsden said. MI Legalize, which is primarily using volunteer petition circulators but plans to hire a firm, is not publicizing how many signatures it has gathered. But Hank said the number is comparable to the MCC totals. “We agree that it’s really easy to get signatures on this issue,” he said. “It’s really not a challenge. The difference with us is we collected that amount without really paying people.” A third group, the Michigan Responsibility Council, is also considering a marijuana legalization ballot proposal but has not announced any formal plans. If multiple proposals for initiated legislation on the same topic made the ballot and won approval, the one that received the most votes would be enacted. Other active ballot committees that filed campaign finance reports on Monday:
  • Protecting Michigan Taxpayers: This group, which is seeking to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, reported raising around $47,000 between June 30 and July 20 and has now raised more than $1.06 million for the cycle. Large donors include the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, the national Construction Legal Rights Foundation and the Michigan Freedom Fund. The group hopes the Republican-led Legislature will approve its initiated legislation, bypassing opposition from GOP Gov. Rick Snyder.
  • The Committee to Ban Fracking: The group, which wants to ban horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Michigan through initiated legislation and the 2016 ballot, reported raising around $19,000 between May 8 and July 20. Treasurer Luanne Kozma contributed more than $10,000 to the group, which has now raised roughly $41,000 this election cycle.
Several other groups are organizing petition drives in the hopes of sending proposals to the 2016 ballot. The Michigan Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider the form of three separate petitions seeking to raise the Corporate Income Tax rate to pay for road repairs, require companies to provide earned paid sick days to employees and institute voting by mail. Jonathan Oosting is a Capitol reporter for MLive Media Group. Email him, find him onFacebook or follow him on Twitter. http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2015/07/michigan_marijuana_legalizatio_4.html

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