Legalizing marijuana will spark problems, officials say.

October 9, 2018

D/F/Lt. WEMET (West Michigan Enforcement Team) Section Commander for the Michigan State Police Andy Fias.

Legalizing marijuana will spark problems, officials say.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

SHELBY – A proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, and two experts in law enforcement provided their perspectives on the topic Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Approximately 55 people attended a three-hour forum, “High Expectations — Understanding Legalized Marijuana,” at the Shelby Optimist Club.

D/F/Lt. WEMET (West Michigan Enforcement Team) Section Commander for the Michigan State Police Andy Fias and Mason County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Glenn Jackson III served as speakers. Oceana LEADS (Leading Efforts Against Alcohol and Drugs), a substance abuse prevention coalition, hosted the discussion.

Mason County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Glen Jackson III.

Attendees included elected officials and law enforcement personnel, business leaders, as well as representatives from the education system, medical community, faith community and human service agencies.

Michigan overwhelmingly approved the legalization of marijuana for medical use 10 years ago, and police have been even busier seizing illegal marijuana since 2008, said Fias.

As a law enforcement leader, Fias has seen the negative effects of legalizing pot in other states, such as Colorado. He showed photos of large billboards in Colorado advertising marijuana that target youth.

He said high school expulsions increased 40 percent in 2017.

“You can lace marijuana with anything you want,” said Fias, such as harmful drugs like Fetanyl.

“There is no evidence that marijuana kills cancer,” he said. Recent medical marijuana laws have “softened the perception of harm.” Federally, it’s a schedule 1 drug with no medical use.

The number of accidental ingestions nearly doubled in Colorado, increasing from approximately 6,000 in 2010 to nearly 11,500 in 2014.

Homelessness has increased, he said, as well as traffic deaths.

Under the proposed law in Michigan, a person can legally have up to 12 plants. As a medical marijuana caregiver, a person could legally have 72 total plants including the dozen allotted for recreational use. Fias said that amount of plants would produce 72 pounds of marijuana, which would yield 88 marijuana cigarettes per day.

Tinctures are a new product developed due to the legalization of marijuana in other states. They are a mixture of a high-grain alcohol, such as vodka, and marijuana. “You can get incredibly drunk and high at the same time,” he said.

The blow torches used to do dabs, which are solidified hash oil, are extremely dangerous, said Fias. He showed photos of the aftermath of three explosions that occurred in Michigan due to people doing dabs, including one in Muskegon County last year.

“It’s not my role to sway your vote,” said Jackson, “but I am not in favor of the proposal. I’ve seen time and time again how marijuana affects court cases.”

Under the proposed law, there would be no more felonies associated with marijuana, he said.

The prosecutor said the proposed law is vague in many areas. “It leaves way too much open.”

A big concern is regulating THC content, which has continued to increase over the years as marijuana strains become more potent. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical that causes most of marijuana’s psychological effect.

He thinks the legal amount that a person could carry is too much. “You can carry two and a half ounces in your pocket,” he said. “Two and a half ounces equals 140 joints.”

Jackson also fears that many city growers will have operations in rural areas, such as Oceana County, because there is a lack of land in urban areas. “City growers will need land near a highway.”

Each individual municipality must pass an ordinance to “opt out” of allowing dispensaries, where marijuana is sold, he said.

The passage of the recreational marijuana proposal would create a 10 percent excise tax on the product with 35 percent going to schools and 35 percent going toward roads.

The 10 percent tax rate is the lowest of any state that has recreational marijuana, and yet people would be able to have more of it on them than any other state in America that has legalized it.

The language on the ballot will read as follows:

“A proposed initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers.
This proposal would:
• Allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption.
• Impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers.
• Create a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them.
• Permit retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10 percent tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located.
• Change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.
Should this proposal be adopted? YES or NO”

“Once we make this legal, it will be impossible to undo,” Jackson said. “If I had to bet money on it, I would bet that it passes.”

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