Michigan was one of three states that approved the sale and possession of marijuana (cannabis) in a ballot initiative on Tuesday. A well-funded effort blanketed the state with advertising in favor of Proposal 18-1 in advance of Election Day, which was countered by a more modest effort by opponents. Pot is now legal to consume in Michigan for recreational purchases. It was already legal for medical purposes even in violation of federal law. 

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol PAC led supporters of Proposal 1, raising $2.27 million. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the MPP Foundation contributed a combined $743,013 to the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. For its part, Healthy and Productive Michigan led the opposing campaign, while the Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools PAC was also registered to oppose the measure. The two groups received $1.50 million, with $1.06 million of the total came from Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action (SAM Action).

After the vote, Healthy and Productive Michigan, which opposed Proposal 18-1, released a statement warning Michiganders. It read: “Obviously the results were not what we hoped for. It is important to note that more Michiganders voted no to Proposal 18-1 than on the other two proposals. While our side lost tonight, it is so important to recognize the level of responsibility that now rests on the shoulders of those who have voted yes.

Officials in local and state government units are quietly welcoming the revenue resulting from sales tax and property taxes generated by pot dispensaries. The NAACP, various churches, police and prosecutors warned against the legalization of marijuana.).

At an October press conference, Kamilia Landrum, deputy executive director of the NAACP of Detroit said that Proposal 1 “supports the very issues that are harming our neighborhoods and killing our families.” Landrum added, “Legalizing marijuana does not help our education system. … It would not provide more jobs, it would take them away. It does not lead to better health care. It puts our health in danger.”

Speaking for Healthy and Productive Michigan, Monica Anthony said of marijuana legalization, “It doesn’t address expungements, incarcerations." Anthony said, "It doesn’t address the employees and how they’ll be impacted.” The Rev. Horace Sheffield, a former addict who spoke for the Detroit Association of Black Organizations, said he fears the effect pot will have on youngsters. “This further imperils our youth who already are economically disadvantaged. It also stymies their educational pursuits,” he said. “… This is not a drug that should be legal.”

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol announced last month that the nonpartisan Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency believes that legalizing cannabis would generate $105.6 million from sales tax and $182.3 million in excise tax in 2023. 

Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, has asserted that gains in government revenue will be miniscule in comparison to the cost of traffic accidents, lost workplace productivity, and health issues. Sabet said at the presser that there are no limits to pot’s potency, which through careful breeding and cultivation has become stronger in recent years. Sabet said that the ballot proposal was poorly written. 

According to Healthy and Productive Michigan, 73 county sheriffs, 56 county prosecutors, the Michigan Catholic Conference Board of Directors, and the Michigan State Medical Society were opposed to the proposal. 

In Michigan, as is the case nationally, surveys have shown that voters are receptive to legalizing marijuana. According to the Pew Research Center and the Gallup organization, 60 percent of Americans support legalization. 

Opponents of legalizing marijuana point to the experience of Colorado, which was the first state to legalize recreational use. According to an April 2018 statement by the Colorado Department of Transportation, 69 percent of cannabis consumers have driven under the influence of marijuana at least once in the past year—with 27 percent admitting they drive high almost daily. Forty percent of recreational users and 34 percent of medical users said they don't think being under the influence of marijuana affects their ability to drive safely. About 10 percent of all users think it makes them a better driver, according to the CDOT survey. The survey was conducted among 11,000 anonymous marijuana users and non-users. 

Colorado continues to see marijuana-involved traffic crashes that result in serious consequences. In 2016, there were 51 fatalities that involved a driver with active THC in their blood above 5 nanograms, the legal limit.  Colorado law specifies that drivers with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their whole blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence (DUI). However, no matter the level of THC, law enforcement officers base arrests on observed impairment. Also, in Colorado, if a substance has impaired a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle, it is illegal for that driver to be on the road, regardless of whether that substance is prescribed or legally acquired.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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