EDITORIAL: Legalize pot, grow our economy
Laws that decriminalize medicinal and recreational marijuana use are gaining popularity nationwide. We support the legalization movement.
Following the passing of Colorado’s 64th Amendment and Washington’s Initiative 502, a majority of Americans now poll in favor of marijuana reform.
According to an October 2013 Gallup Poll, 58 percent of Americans believe weed should be legalized. Only 39 percent said it should remain illegal – the first time a majority has ever been in favor of complete legalization.
Following a September EPIC-MRA state poll, 67 percent of Michigan residents surveyed were in favor of some type of marijuana reform, leaving 26 percent who preferred Michigan’s current enforcement policies.
Last year, two bills passed through the Michigan House of Representatives that would broaden the definition of THC-containing edibles and allow for dispensaries to reopen across the state.
At a local level, Central Michigan University students are raising concerns about the way the university treats marijuana possession. A bill passed through the Student Government Association in the Senate and the House, which would significantly reduce pot possession punishments.
However, it appears the movement is hitting a speed bump as both state bills remain stagnant at Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville’s desk. CMU’s proposed changes await the support of SGA President Marie Reimers.
The people have made their voices heard.
It’s time for our governing bodies to listen and make some substantial changes to the way marijuana is handled by our justice system at the local, state and federal levels.
While Reimers said Sunday she will pocket veto the SGA bill, neither signing or vetoing it and allowing it to pass automatically, Richardville said he plans on sitting on the state reform bills.
“We don’t want this ballot initiative to take over,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “I believe a vast majority of people who voted for it believed we were talking about prescription type of marijuana.”
In Michigan, the time for significant reform is now.
According to a September financial report released by the state of Michigan, $52.8 billion in revenue supported total governmental expenses of $50.3 billion – creating a surplus of $2.5 billion.
As Gov. Rick Snyder places an increased emphasis on funding education and the growth of business, Michigan could always use a revenue increase and marijuana could be the catalyst.
According to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s state budget proposal, taxes on marijuana sales are expected to bring in about $134 million to the state per year.
Hickenlooper estimates the industry could reach $1 billion in sales – $610 million composed of recreational sales – by next year alone. Colorado is putting the money to good use.
Of that $134 million, Hickenlooper proposed earlier this month to spend $99 million on substance abuse counseling, public health and law enforcement – money the state would not have earned without legalizing weed.
Michigan legislators, specifically Richardville, should take a page out of Colorado’s book.
Legalizing marijuana for recreational use, in addition to medicinal purposes, could jolt our economy. It could bring in more money for our schools or roads.
Reform could allow police to focus on more serious crimes. It could clear up both our court and prison systems, and make way for those who deserve to be behind bars.
Laws prohibiting weed are outdated. They no longer represent the views of our state or our nation.
The decisions for reform are no longer based on whether or not marijuana should be made legal, but are focused on when and how – and we say the time is now.