I’m Voting ‘No’ on Michigan Recreational Marijuana and Here’s Why [OPINION]
Voters in Michigan will decide on November 6th whether or not to pass Proposal One, which will legalize the possession and use of recreational marijuana for people 21 and over.
I'm voting 'No.'
Before you assume that I'm just an old prude, I smoked my fair share of pot in my younger days. Maybe more than my fair share actually. Some would consider it a normal part of growing up -- a rite of passage if you will.
But as an illegal substance, it was harder to obtain even past the age of 21. Alcohol, on the other hand, is obviously readily accessible to anyone who's of legal drinking age and surprisingly easy to obtain for someone under 21. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use in Michigan will likely result in increased use by teenagers.
Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana usage in 2012, followed by Alaska and Oregon in 2014. Washington DC passed a law in 2014 making it legal to possess and cultivate marijuana. Since legalization, the rate of teens 12-17 who report using pot in the previous month has risen over the national average. Alaska and Oregon lead the country in teens 12-17 who've used in the past year. Edibles such as pot-laced candies, cookies and brownies will likely appeal to children.
Speaking recently in Frankenmuth, Matthew Yascolt, the director of "Healthy and Productive Michigan," predicted that marijuana distributors will likely market to the youth segment much like tobacco and alcohol companies have.
"Legalizing recreational marijuana is bringing in another addictive industry, an industry that is going to profit from addiction. And just like big tobacco saw, you need to market to people under the age of 18 to get these life-long consumers.”
According to Healthy and Productive Michigan, persons 18-20 who are ticketed for possession or use (below the legal age of 21) will not be required to attend drug education or counseling.
At a recent gathering of civic leaders in Detroit, Reverend Horace Sheffield said that marijuana is a gateway drug.
“As one who once struggled with drugs, which started with marijuana use, and as one who now provides Substance Abuse Prevention programs, I know the dangers of drugs,” he said. “And making marijuana legal for recreational purposes will do more damage than it will be fun.”
Drugged driving fatalities have increased in the states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana. According to a 2014 report by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, states in which marijuana has been legalized have seen an increase in drug-related crashes. The number of drivers in Colorado who have been involved in fatal traffic crashes while intoxicated with marijuana increased 88% from 2013 to 2015.
Drugged driving fatalities in Washington state have doubled since the legalization of recreational marijuana, according to AAA.
Advocates of legalized marijuana say doing so will take the criminal aspect out of possessing and using the drug. But the crime rate in Colorado has increased 11 times faster than the rest of the nation and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reports an 8.3% increase in property crimes and 18.6% increase in violent crimes since recreational marijuana use has become legal.
And let's take a look at the culture in Michigan since the use of medical marijuana was legalized 10 years ago. Obviously, there have been many economic factors that have had a negative impact on our society. But doesn't it feel like we're caught in a moral mudslide as well? I'm not naïve enough to think that this is entirely drug-related, but in my opinion, as drugs have become a more accepted -- even standardized -- part of our society, we've been forced to lower our expectations from others.
And finally, I have personal reasons for my decision to vote no on Proposal 1. As a father of 20-year-old sons, I've seen the effects drugs can have. Two young men who graduated the year before my boys have died because of drugs. One of my sons was friends with one of them and paid his respects to the family at the funeral visitation. He said it was one of the saddest things he’s ever seen. It’s anecdotal I admit, but both of these boys’ journeys toward overdose began with marijuana.
And one could argue that 'regular use' is misuse and I would agree. Maybe if recreational use is reserved for weekends or special occasions it wouldn't cross the line to abuse. The same could be said for alcohol. But we as human beings don't always exhibit the necessary willpower to keep ourselves out of addictive territory. In my opinion, the disadvantages of legalizing the use of recreational marijuana far outweigh the benefits.