IN DEPTH: Michigan voters face big decision on recreational marijuana

Published: Oct. 25, 2018 at 5:31 PM EDT
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There are now more marijuana dispensaries in the State of Colorado than there are Starbucks and McDonald’s.

That is food for thought as Michigan voters prepare to vote on a ballot initiative that would legalize recreational pot.

Perhaps the worst thing that could happen if Michigan legalized recreational Marijuana would be what happened in suburban Colorado when members of cannabis cartels moved in.

“You open the door and it’s a drug factory,” said Scott Greenlee with Healthy and Productive Michigan. “What NBC reported (May 29th, 2018 on the Today Show) is that there were hundreds of houses that had bought, been bought in Colorado by foreign drug cartels since legalization. Now, why do you think that is? Well, if they can get it in a place that's 'legal,' they can get large quantities of it and then they can move it within the United States. It’s a lot easier than smuggling it into the country in this day and age.”

According to a report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (Volume 5, October 2017), some 7,116 pounds of pot were seized by police from would-be smugglers heading for the Colorado border in 2016. That’s nearly 3.5 tons and up more than 370 percent from the 1,489 pounds diverted in 2013.

“This is scary. If this passes, Michigan will become the drug capital, the marijuana capital of America, almost overnight,” Greenlee said.

Mark Smith, owner of the Green Door medical marijuana dispensary in Bangor, doesn’t agree.

“Even the priesthood has issues, so any industry you have people that do wrong,” he said.

Smith is confident that Michigan will be able to weed out bad guys through good marijuana regulation. In fact, he’s betting on it. Smith is investing $3.1 million in what he hopes will soon be a licensed marijuana growing facility for medical — and eventually recreational — marijuana.

“No, I never thought that we would see this day come where we would actually have an industry that we're going to build, this brand new industry wrapped around marijuana,” Smith said.

Josh Hovey runs the Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. He sat down for a one-on-one interview with NewsCenter 16 on the ballot initiative this week.

“The most dangerous part about marijuana today is the fact that your people are buying it from drug dealers,” he said.

“The prohibition on marijuana has been a complete failure," he continued. "It’s failed to stop people from using, it’s led to unregulated and untested product on the market.”

But among those opposed to building a legitimate business based on buds is the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which fears the impact legal cannabis could have on the rest of the state’s economy.

“What we found in Colorado and other states is that drugged driving gives our insurance companies a very justifiable reason to increase their premiums and obviously on a business that might run a fleet of trucks, that increase is 10-, 20-, 50-fold,” Greenlee said.

And while those over the age of 21 would gain the right to legally use marijuana, it could cause some to lose their jobs. Proposal 1 has no impact whatsoever on workforce drug testing programs.

“So you could do your 'legal' weed on Oct. 1, and if it’s Oct. 20 and you get randomly tested at your job. We’re not saying you're impaired. What we're saying is for sure the employer doesn't know if you had it on your lunch break or if you had it three weeks ago, and the result's going to be the same thing, which is you lose your job,” Greenlee said.

The state of Michigan’s Senate Fiscal Agency estimates that recreational marijuana taxes in Michigan would bring in $287.9 million by fiscal year 2023.

Proposal 1 calls for 30 percent of the money to go to K-12 education, 30 percent to local governments and 30 percent to road funding.

"So MDOT says it costs about a million dollars per lane mile to replace roads in Michigan so what that means for viewers in the south part of the state, I-94 where it jumps into four lanes all the way across there,

you could maybe repair eight miles of that," said Greenlee.

Josh Hovey responded, “I think $287 million is a whole lot of money. Maybe to some people that’s not, but it’s far more than the zero we’re collecting today.”

On NewsCenter 16 at 6 on Friday, we’ll take a closer look at the plethora of proposed pot regulations contained in Proposal 18-1, from how much weed could be given as a gift to how legal pot use would be viewed in child custody and visitation cases.

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