I sat down with Jeff Hank at his office in downtown Lansing to talk about Michigan’s adult use ballot proposal that’s coming in 2016. Hank is an attorney who is currently acting as both executive director and chairman of the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee; the group responsible for bringing life to the proposed law. Hank was very clear he does not want to do anything that would lessen the rights of Michigan medical marijuana patients and asserted that it is imperative to protect the Act. In fact, he wants to expand allowable cannabis use beyond just medical purposes to also include responsible adult use, essentially ending cannabis prohibition in the state of Michigan. Even though this is just gearing up, we see much excitement around the state.
However, we are faced with more questions than answers at this point. Some details that still need to be worked out include: At what age will adult use be allowed? Will there be 2 systems; one for the medical program and one for recreational users? What will the limits be if there are any? What will the tax rate be? Will people be able to grow it at home? Should marijuana be available in standard pharmacies?
An overwhelming majority of citizens can agree that cannabis should not be considered Schedule I on the DEA controlled substances list. The first tier is reserved only for substances that are considered the most dangerous and have no accepted medical use with a high likelihood of abuse. Recently, several medical associations have made public statements requesting that cannabis be moved from the Schedule I Classification it currently holds.
Hank is hopeful that the petition to legalize responsible adult cannabis use will be welcomed by the citizens of Michigan based on the outcries of the public and of these medical associations. Hank says marijuana prohibition just “defies common logic.” There are no recorded deaths caused by marijuana, whereas the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states, “drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2012.” Among people age 25 to 64 years old drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle crashes.
“The two big issues I hear the most,” Hank said, “were what about the kids getting marijuana? The other was about being impaired while driving from marijuana. Neither of which are new issues.” According to recent polls, over half the population does not believe marijuana should be illegal for one reason or another. The number of supporters seems to grow every day, even from non-users. “Clearly what we are doing now does not work,” Hank states; a position that he feels emulates the stance of who may not even be fond of marijuana, but can realize that prohibition has failed the people.
There are many reasons that voters cite for their position on legalization. Some have to do with the safety of marijuana, others are in regards to tax spending, while others are a clear stance against asset forfeiture. One thing is for certain, no matter how you trim the bud, the voters are toasted when it comes to marijuana policy.