Opinion

Point: Legalize Marijuana

Point_

Story by Esperanza Garcia, Reporter

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

The 2018 midterms brought three proposals to Michigan: Proposal 2, which tackles gerrymandering; Proposal 3, which will make voter registration more accessible; and Proposal 1, arguably the most popular among the younger generations of voters, which will legalize marijuana. The legalization of marijuana is a topic which starts a conversation that rarely involves neutrality. It is one that I remember having since eighth grade when the conversation for its legalization in Colorado was just starting. Often times my teachers would say: “Here’s a controversial topic,” or “Let’s not get too personal with this one.”

Marijuana is something that has been, for the most part, seen as a taboo and — thanks to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions — it is the new face of the War on Drugs next to opioids. As a result, many people may see the legalization of marijuana as a bad thing, that would set our state in a backwards direction. I don’t believe this to be the case. If anything, I think marijuana could socially, economically and medically propel our state forward.

At the center of our country’s mass incarceration issue is marijuana. Specifically, the disparity in which it’s white male users are incarcerated in comparison to men of color, especially Black men and non-white Latinos. Men of color are far more likely to be incarcerated for possession of marijuana than their white counterparts — and the sentences that they face are also more severe than that of white men. The ACLU reported that black people are four times more likely to be arrested than white people for being in possession of marijuana despite the fact that they use it at the same rate. While Proposal 1 wouldn’t necessarily give pardons to those that are already convicted, it is being talked about.

On Nov. 7 Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer said she would consider pardons for those incarcerated due to possession of marijuana. But this is not set in stone yet. The enactment of Proposal 1 will prevent men of color in the future from having to face the same consequences.

Our state has been slowly recovering from the 2008 recession and the economic fall of Detroit; the passing of Proposal 1 would help us be better off economically. The proposal states that the legalization of marijuana would cause all sales to have a 10% sales tax. That tax would be implemented on schools, clinical trials, roads and municipalities where the marijuana businesses are located.

Our state would be making revenue; there’s an estimate of $77.1 million that are projected for as soon as 2019. This would benefit public schools by allowing them to have more access to resources, helping children have a better educational experience. Revenue would also be allocated to our infrastructure, meaning that our roads could be fixed properly, which could lead to less tedious road closings.

Legal and ‘moral’ propaganda aside, marijuana is first and foremost a medicinal herb that helps with chronic pain, seizures, cancer and PTSD. In states where marijuana is legal, opioid prescription declined approximately by a 2.3 million dosage in 2017. Given our current opioid crisis, marijuana could help as an alternative. Rather than continue subjecting people to what could be a cocktail of medications that lead to negative health effects and addiction, marijuana would pose a more natural and healthy solution.  

With the bad reputation that marijuana has, I can understand why people could get concerned about legalizing it; but we also have to realize that the legislation that originally surrounded it was systematically used to put people of color in prison, and that, financially and medically speaking, our state would greatly benefit from it’s legalization.

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