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Legalizing marijuana makes sense for Michigan

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In November, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 362,000 signatures to the state of Michigan to add a pro-recreational marijuana proposal to 2018’s ballot.  This proposal, if it is included on November’s ballot and if voters approve it, will allow adults 21 and older to carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and possess up to 10 ounces in their homes to use recreationally. If passed, Michigan would include a 10 percent excise tax on retail marijuana purchases in addition to Michigan’s six percent sales tax.

The state Board of Canvassers has not ruled yet on whether the marijuana initiative will be on November’s ballot, and at least two public advocacy groups have mobilized to oppose the measure.

While not everyone uses marijuana, legalizing it for recreational use would be beneficial for every citizen. I do not smoke pot and I do not endorse the frequent use of it, but it is completely illogical to demonize and criminalize the people who do. Legalizing recreational marijuana is both economical and practical for our nation.

The government would be able to divert funds from their war on drugs and fund programs for the poor. It would increase tax revenue and leave ample funds to improve infrastructure, like Michigan roads. Perhaps we could use the tax revenue to aid young adults seeking a higher education. The business generated by the introduction of a legal marijuana sector would create jobs for many unemployed people, especially for those discouraged workers who have been jobless since the 2008 financial crisis. As Michigan’s proposed ballot initiative is written, the new taxes generated from marijuana sales would be split 35% each to K-12 education and roads, 15% to cities that allow marijuana businesses in their borders, and 15% to counties that have marijuana businesses.

It would also have a positive effect on crime. In Michigan alone, nearly 20,000 people are arrested for possession of marijuana annually. Nationally, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, nearly 50 percent of the estimated 2.5 million prison inmates in America are serving time for drug-related offenses. According to CBS News, it costs anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 a year to incarcerate one person. Currently, it costs taxpayers $63.4 billion a year to house and feed these inmates. If we legalized marijuana for recreational use, much of this cost would be reduced.    

A Harvard University researcher found that the U.S. government spends nearly $13.8 billion a year on marijuana enforcement activities, which will undoubtedly increase with Trump in the White House.   

While these enforcement activities are fully funded, many other programs are deemed less critical, and their funding is slashed. For example, U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) wants to defund food stamps and other entitlement programs and use the money to fund a border wall.

Our nation needs to decide what we hold important.  Do we consider a war on drugs, which began as a political cash cow, more significant than the general well-being of our fellow citizens?      

According to the Washington Post, Colorado created more than 18,000 jobs and generated $2.4 billion in economic activity when the state legalized marijuana.  Imagine if we implemented this on a national scale.  President Trump could achieve his promise of substantial GDP growth. Millions of discouraged workers could easily find employment in the growing sector. Legalizing recreational marijuana makes plain economical sense.

Let’s face it, despite four decades and more than a $1 trillion dollars spent, the government has not stopped the use of marijuana. Criminalizing marijuana and demonizing individuals who use it is not the answer. The most practical way to prevent people from using the substance is by legalizing it and imposing taxes on it.

Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana is more practical and economical than criminalizing it.              

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Legalizing marijuana makes sense for Michigan