Impact of Legalizing Pot in Michigan

By: Brian Johnson Email
By: Brian Johnson Email

They had the band, free food, signs and sunshine. It seems the only thing working against those rallying at the Capitol Wednesday were the empty chairs. But the message is clear--legalize marijuana and stop prosecuting medical marijuana users.

"Regardless of whether or not you think it works, these people do," said Gersh Avery, the co-founder of Cannibis Cancer Project. "They are trying to stay alive using this as a medicine. It's not just another shot of whiskey on a Saturday night."

Several dozen people showed their support outside the Capitol Wednesday.

"Why should you be fined for something that grows out of the earth. It's been used in medicine for thousands of years until 1937 when the federal government decided to make it illegal," said Chris Baldwin, a rally organizer.

Representative Jeff Irwin who sponsored legislation to decriminalize marijuana, said his bill is just a first step toward legalizing the drug.

"There has not been a real open and honest conversation about what are the harms, what are our goals, and how can we get to those goals," said Representative Jeff Irwin a democrat from Ann Arbor. "We have a failure of prohibition of marijuana. It doesn't work. It doesn't keep marijuana out of the hands of anyone who wants to get it and the public doesn't support it, so I think it's a failure on every measure."

Irwin said his bill is gaining support from both democrats and republicans.

However there is a difference between decriminalizing marijuana and making it legal for recreational use. Many feel legalizing marijuana is going too far.

"We're just not ready to legalize marijuana in Michigan," said Ari Adler, the press secretary for House Speaker Bolger a republican. "If we want to look at what the punishment is for the crime for personal use for small amounts of marijuana, then the Speaker is willing to look at that. There has been a bill proposed and we're willing to talk about that."

Some people have concerns against recreational marijuana because of public safety.

"There is the potential for people to drive there vehicle and hurt somebody while they are stoned on marijuana," said Aaron Urbonya, a student who lives in Lansing.

But if you look at the numbers, your opinion might change.

In 2012, 303 people in Michigan went to prison for having marijuana. The majority of them, 269, had a small amount. Housing them costs the state about $10.5 million a year. However, the total cost of enforcement is much harder to calculate.

90 percent of marijuana offenders did not get prison time. Instead they were punished with probation or jail time. The State Police say there is no way to tally how much money is spent enforcing one specific drug. The fact is, the state needs police, prosecutors and judges to enforce more than just marijuana and so the cost savings of legalizing the drug might not be as high as some pro-marijuana supporters say.

So how much tax money could the state generate by regulating marijuana?

Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012 and projected the state would make anywhere from $5 to $22 million in tax revenue from sales. The real numbers will come out next year after recreational sales begin January 1, 2014.

You must be logged in to post comments.

Password (case sensitive):
Remember Me:
WILX 500 American Road Lansing, MI 48911 517-393-0110
Copyright © 2002-2016 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 222441231 -
Gray Television, Inc.