The battle between the proponents and opponents of marijuana legalization is in full force. I’m sure you’ve seen the ads on television, heard them on the radio, seen them in your mail and you even might have seen a sign in your neighbor’s yard.
For some, marijuana legalization might be a scary thought. For others, it can be viewed as a window of opportunity for our state, our communities and entrepreneurs. So let’s address some of the common concerns that come with cannabis legalization.
Accessibility to children
If your child gets his or her hands on marijuana, there’s a good chance it didn’t come from a licensed provisioning center. It likely came from the black market. The more cannabis accessibility there is within a community, the less black-market activity exists. According to a study released by the Colorado Department of Public Safety, marijuana sales arrests decreased 24 percent between 2012 and 2014 — meaning fewer people were arrested for selling cannabis to adults or minors after legalization.
They say marijuana will be regulated like alcohol, but in fact, the regulations are much more stringent. The state requires licensed cannabis businesses — such as cultivators, processors, retailers, testers and secure transporters — to track every bit of product using seed-to-sale tracking software and have appropriate security measures in place to ensure any cannabis product handled by employees is done so under camera surveillance.
West Michigan law enforcement has stated there are concerns about marijuana impairment behind the wheel. According to Healthy and Productive Michigan’s website, marijuana-impaired driving fatalities more than doubled in the state of Washington after legalization.
While this statistic might seem alarming, it’s important to keep in mind there is no data regarding when the victim used cannabis, how much was used or if the deadly accident was caused by impairment. This means the drivers could have had alcohol in their system at the time of the accident but also had THC in their system from a joint they smoked three weeks prior.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, overall traffic deaths drop 11 percent on average in states that legalized medical marijuana. If legalization is successful in Michigan, there is hope that some of the taxes and resources can be allocated to law enforcement to focus on better, proven methods for testing for cannabis impairment.
Cannabis and the workplace
There is worry the legalization of cannabis will negatively affect an employer’s ability to find workers who can pass drug testing requirements. For frequent cannabis consumers, it can take weeks for THC to exit one’s system. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s not an issue that seems to be affecting states that have legalized. As of August, Colorado’s unemployment rate sits at 2.9 percent, well below the national average and far below Michigan’s 4.1 percent.
It’s also important to keep in mind there will be many jobs created in the cannabis industry. According to ZipRecruiter, the cannabis industry is the fastest-growing job category in the United States. The company said the cannabis industry is growing faster than the health care and technology industries combined. In fact, the cannabis industry saw 445 percent growth last year compared to the year before.
Because Michigan has double the population of Colorado and is home to the second-largest medical cannabis market in the country, there will be many good-paying job opportunities for medical marijuana patients and recreational users who might otherwise be unable to obtain jobs due to strict drug testing policies.
Needed tax revenue
Whether you are for or against legalization, there is one thing we all can agree on — our state needs money. According to a report released recently by the Senate Fiscal Agency, the state could see an estimated $288 million in tax revenue in 2023 if the majority of voters agree to legalize cannabis on Nov. 6.
According to the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a 10 percent excise tax would be charged to consumers, on top of the 6 percent sales tax. Of that total, 35 percent will be allocated to schools, 35 percent will go toward road improvements and the remaining 30 percent would be split between the municipality and county that allows a recreational marijuana facility.
I encourage you to set some time aside Tuesday, Nov. 6, and vote yes on Proposal 18-1.