Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Developing: Chatfield Leads House Pot Legalization Talks As June 5th Deadline Looms


By Brandon Hall
(Email Him At

Speaker Pro Tem Lee Chatfield is leading efforts to hold a vote in the House on the marijuana legalization initiative that was submitted earlier this year.

House Republicans privately discussed the issue for over two hours last week, but getting the 56 votes needed is an uphill battle. Insiders don't expect it to happen.

Lawmakers have until June 5th to pass the proposal, otherwise voters will decide in November.

The situation is interesting: Republicans mostly oppose pot, but the increased voter turnout over this proposal could cost them the House in November. 

Democrats mostly support legalizing, but they want the benefits of the marijuana votes to help them in other races this fall, and subsequently, don't show much interest in the legislative option.

According to MIRS:

"House Speaker Pro Tem Lee CHATFIELD (R-Levering), the presumed Republican leader in the 2019-20 session, is talking with Senate Republican leadership about the possibility of cobbling together the votes needed to pass the marijuana legalization citizens initiative by the June 5 deadline.

Chatfield met with Senate Majority Leader Arlan MEEKHOF (R-Holland) and Sen. Mike SHIRKEY (R-ClarkLake) for a brief huddle in the coffee room off the Senate floor near Meekhof's seat on Wednesday about the issue.

The two-term House member said at this moment there is no inter-House agreement and if there's not one in two weeks, there won't be. The constitution requires both chambers either pass citizen initiative in 40 days after receiving them or they automatically go the ballot.

Meekhof and Shirkey see value in passing the initiative, conceding that voters are going to pass it anyway and that legislative amendments to the measure would need only a simple majority of support as opposed to three-quarters support if voters approve it (See "Shirkey Asks Lawmakers To Consider Marijuana Proposal; Dem Leaders Say No," 5/11/18).

"There's been an ongoing conversation about which is the best way to regulate it as we move forward," Chatfield said. "I think it's important that we have a framework in place to regulate marijuana. We can see what other states have done and amend it if necessary . . . as the people's chamber and the legislature moving forward, that's the best way to deal with these sorts of issues."

Meanwhile, House Speaker Tom LEONARD(R-DeWitt) said he would permit a House vote on legalizing pot if others can find the 55 votes to pass it.  He still remains a no vote and, in a conversation with MIRS this morning, he suggested that the "handful of votes" for legalization that he described last Thursday is now "about a dozen plus," a number that includes Chatfield.

The marijuana legalization effort has caused tensions between Leonard and Meekhof (See "Marijuana Smoke Out More Tension Between Leonard, Meekhof," 5/4/18).

"We've been talking openly with House members, making sure they understand what the constitutional obligations are" regarding the initiative pot petition, which gives lawmakers first whack at passing it and if not, then the voters check in on the statewide November ballot."

Also from MIRS, Meekhof has thrown cold water on Senator Shirkey's idea of delaying enactment of pot legalization until it's ok'd by the feds.

"Senate Majority Leader Arlan MEEKHOF (R-West Olive) drove a spike through the idea of putting an enactment delay on the marijuana legalization effort, issuing a statement that he was "disappointed" such an idea would be discussed.

"The Senate Republican Caucus is working to adopt and amend proposed legalization of marijuana," he said. "The goal is to treat recreational marijuana the same as we do medical in this state. The notion that I would consider repealing, or effectively neutralizing, this citizens-initiated legislation is false."

The statement came less than 24 hours after Meekhof's wingman on the marijuana legalization effort, Sen. Mike SHIRKEY (R-Clarklake), suggested on Off The Record that legalizing recreational marijuana and then amending it with a majority vote to have it only go into effect when the federal government reclassifies marijuana from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 drug. "

Stay tuned!


Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.

>>>Email him at

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