LANSING — Journalists with the City Pulse marked the legalization of recreational marijuana by handing out joints Thursday morning in downtown Lansing.
Staffers with the alternative weekly newspaper stood outside Lansing City Hall, which is across from the state Capitol, and greeted passersby with the offer of free weed.
The City Pulse had exhausted its supply within an hour. At least 28 people accepted the offer.
Close to 56% of Michigan voters said yes to recreational marijuana in November. Use of the drug officially became legal Thursday following certification of the election results.
"We wanted to do something to celebrate this occasion," said City Pulse reporter Kyle Kaminski said, adding that he believed having fewer people arrested and incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses would be a positive outcome.
It is now legal for adults ages 21 and older to use, grow and possess small amounts of marijuana. City Pulse staffers checked the driver's licenses of passersby to verify their ages before giving out the joints.
Josh Hovey, a spokesman with the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group behind the 2018 recreational marijuana ballot measure, said there was nothing illegal about the newspaper's experiment.
Although Michigan's new marijuana law bans smoking marijuana in public places, it does not prohibit giving away or possessing small amounts of cannabis in public, Hovey said.
As of now, it is legal to gift marijuana, assuming no money is exchanged. It could take years before the state fully implements its licensing system that would let businesses legally sell recreational marijuana.
The City Pulse started with one ounce total of marijuana, well below the state's personal possession limit of 2.5 ounces, Kaminski said.
The newspaper bought the drug for $223 from Pure Options, a medical marijuana dispensary based in Lansing, City Pulse Pulse Publisher Berl Schwartz said.
Michigan voters first legalized medical marijuana in 2008.
The publication reached out to Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski "as a courtesy" and consulted an attorney before attempting the giveaway, Schwartz said.
Overall, Schwartz said, he's been impressed by Michigan's subdued reaction to the end of marijuana prohibition.
"People are taking it in stride," he said. "If we were Colorado, the first to legalize, I think there'd be a big party today. I think people have accepted for a while that this bound to happen."