Marijuana may be coming to Michigan

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This fall is an important one for the recreational use of marijuana and its potential legalization in Michigan.

A state lawmaker last week introduced a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults in Michigan.

Senate Bill No. 813, a non-medical marijuana code, would allow the state to set up a regulatory system for retail marijuana sales.

According to the Detroit Free Press, three efforts are underway to put legalization of recreational use on the November ballot.
For a lot of people, this is exciting news.

A few states, including Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado, have shown the influence of legal recreational marijuana usage on their respective economies, culture and crime rates.

The legalization of recreational marijuana use has far greater effects than just allowing some potheads to do what they do without fear or paranoia. There are plenty of benefits, but two specific benefits stand out the most to me when advocates speak about this issue.

First, the large amounts of money that the taxation of marijuana can bring to a state is proven to be an enormous benefit.

The second benefit is legalization’s effect on crime rates.

The number of adults 21 and older arrested in Washington for possession of marijuana decreased from 5,531 in 2012 to 120 in 2013, the year recreational use was legalized in the state. Likewise, Colorado saw its number of arrests for possession of marijuana decrease from about 741 per month to 133 per month in 2013. This keeps people out of prison and, in theory, also cuts some of the costs of prisons that American citizens are footing.

It’s fairly easy to see the benefits of legal recreational marijuana use. So, why wouldn’t you support such a measure?

Well, it’s more complicated than that.

There are consequences that come with the legalization of recreational marijuana use, such as a spike in marijuana-related traffic accidents, higher rates of school expulsions due to drug-related violations and higher numbers of illegal parcels being shipped to and from each state.

This last issue is a little more pressing; bordering states who have not legalized recreational marijuana use have seen a large increase in the their drug-related crimes. Nebraska and Oklahoma have gone so far as to file lawsuits against the state of Colorado because of this.

The misuse of pesticides when it comes to growing these plants is another huge issue. Due to the fact that there are no commercially produced pesticides that are labeled “marijuana friendly,” growers have been forced to create their own pesticides, which can lead to contaminated and unhealthy plants being shipped out to dispensaries.

To debunk one of the aforementioned alleged benefits of this issue, some recent reports have shown that the legalization of recreational marijuana use has done very little to prison populations in these states. The idea that our prisons are filled to the brim with offenders who are there exclusively for marijuana-related offenses is actually a myth. To put this into perspective, only 1 percent of people sentenced to jail in Colorado in 2010 were sent exclusively for marijuana-related offenses.

It is also important to note that while possessing or growing marijuana is legal in the aforementioned states, it is still illegal to sell it or buy it from a non-licensed dispensary or individual. Also, the amount one can possess or grow at any time is limited.

I have not yet decided if I am for or against this proposed non-medical marijuana code. The point of this piece is to educate students who, let’s face it, are the biggest demographic for recreational marijuana use. Legalizing marijuana is not as beneficial as some people may think; I urge everyone to look deeper into this issue.

There are many more benefits and consequences to legalization than are covered in this article. Sure, with time, these laws and regulations can be adjusted to account for any issues that arise. However, at the end of the day, much like tobacco and alcohol, the real goal here is to profit off an addictive substance. If I’ve learned anything in the last 23 years, it would be that this country is willing to do almost anything to keep its corporations safe.

Keep that in mind when voting this fall, Cardinals.