Students petition for total statewide legalization of marijuana

Abbie Robinson | Staff Photographer Perry senior Lisa Conine, the Recruitment Chair for Student Advocates for the Medical and Responsible use of Cannabis, writes down information for new members in Moore Hall on Sept. 9.

Student Advocates for the Medical and Responsible Use of Cannabis are collecting signatures for a proposal that would legalize marijuana for recreational purposes in Michigan. 

To appear on the ballot in November 2016 the petition requires more than 200,000 signatures.

 The proposal, known as the Michigan Marihuana Legalization, Regulation and Economic Stimulus Act, would allow adults aged 21 and above to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana and privately grow 12 marijuana plants, while giving state and local governments flexibility on regulation. Taxes collected from the sale of marijuana would go to the Department of Transportation, the School Aid Fund, and to the city government in which the substance is sold. 

“The stigma is fading, and we want to wipe it out,” said Dan Cavins, president of SAMRC.

At the first group meeting of the semester on Sept. 9, Cavins cited the increase in incarceration rates and the medical needs of patients as reasons marijuana should be legalized.

“We do this for the parents who lost custody of their children, for the prisoners who don’t have a voice (and) for the kids who die because they can’t get their medicine,” the junior said.

Director of the Office of Student Conduct, Tom Idema, said if the proposal was successful, CMU's marijuana policy would not change regarding marijuana on campus.

"Since CMU receives federal funding, we follow federal guidelines (The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act) when it comes to controlled substances like marijuana," he said. "It really does not matter what the State of Michigan does. As long as we are complying with federal regulations our current policies will not change. "

The efforts of SAMRC are part of a larger effort to collect signatures supported by the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee, responsible for drafting the proposal and funding the campaign.

Cavins said the group has collected about 150 signatures in its first week and the response from students has been positive. 

The group plans to collect signatures throughout the year by sending volunteers around campus, to residence halls, football tailgates and other events. SAMRC will have tables set up throughout the semester, alternating weekly between Monday and Tuesday appearances from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The organization also is encouraging students to register to vote, providing forms for them to fill out. At the group meeting, Cavins argued that millennials have not participated in the voting process in large enough numbers to have an impact in elections.

Last year, SAMRC worked with local activists to successfully decriminalize marijuana use in Mount Pleasant, allowing adults of age 21 and older to possess the substance. Marijuana is still restricted within the city, however, due to state laws that the current proposal would override.

Cavins noted that many of the supporters were motivated by medical needs. Sophomore Mitchell Brown, secretary of SAMRC, has a prescription for marijuana to treat pain caused by migraines and irritable bowel syndrome. He began using about a year ago, just before his freshman year.

Although medical marijuana is legal within the state of Michigan, CMU does not allow students to possess or use the substance anywhere on campus, even with a prescription.

Brown said his resident assistant questioned him about the smell in his residence hall room and told him he could not use the substance on campus. He began storing his prescribed marijuana at a friend’s house. Within a month he decided to move off campus into an apartment.

“It was a bunch of hassle for just trying to feel normal,” he said.

Other students differed in their opinions about legalizing marijuana. Freshman Zack Kujat said he was unsure which side of the debate he favored.

“I think it should be legalized so the cops don’t have to crack down on it, but at the same time it’s dangerous so I feel that people shouldn’t be allowed to use it.”

Sophomore Mikayla Lemery said she opposes legalization due to her family’s experience with drug addiction.

“I have an uncle and a cousin who are drug addicts, and I do not think it should be legalized because it is a gateway drug," she said.