On November 6, 2018, Proposal One, proposing the legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan passed. Michigan has now become the 10th state to legalize marijuana and the first in the Midwest, and voters, students, and Michigan residents have much to say about it. On Thursday, December 6th, the use of recreational marijuana is no longer illegal; however, no dispensaries will open until official licensing is completed. The State Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs must develop rules and regulations for these dispensaries, and that process is not set to be complete until of late 2019. Citizens over 21 and teenagers, especially, need to be educated on the rules, and reasons for legalization in this grey area of legalization and open dispensaries for selling marijuana. The passing of the proposal does not mean that Michigan will become a pot free-for-all, there are rules that must be considered.
The legalization isn’t just about the freedom to smoke the previously illegal drug, it’s not that simple. Firstly, weed will be taxed, and will eventually generate millions of tax dollars, which is predicted to boost Michigan’s economy. However legal, taxed marijuana will cost more than illegal prices. Another reason for legalization is that law enforcement is spending too much time and money or putting people in jail for possession. In 2017, over 1,470 arrests were made for possession of marijuana, according to the Michigan State Police. In other states where legalization of marijuana, states have grappled with how to expunge records of previously charged abusers. It is likely to be an issue within the state of Michigan as well. Whether weed is legal or not, it will continue to be sold, bought, and used, thus making it legal will make it be less criminally damaging to users. That being said, the black market will continue to exist, unfortunately even with legalization.
With the pros, there are concerning cons. Car accidents totals in Michigan are expected to increase. As of now, there is no way to test drivers on the spot, to prove they are currently driving under the influence of marijuana. Driving high has been proven dangerous, and it is illegal. With the legalization, many high drivers will put their own lives on the line, as well as others. A second consequence is a potential for an increase in teen usage. Marijuana will be illegal to citizens under 21, but with the legalization, and eventual dispensaries opening up, weed will be more accessible to underage young adults. Just like with tobacco products and alcohol, laws do not stop teens from buying and using. Unfortunately, teenagers will find a way to get and use illegal substances, yet this is not a new concern. Fear has been expressed from voters and parents, that an increase in teen usage, which is detrimental to still-developing brains, would be a dangerous impact with the legalization of marijuana.
What do students need to know? First and foremost, there are rules and regulations. It is illegal to possess and use marijuana if under 21 regardless of Proposal One. Once of age, citizens are allowed to carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, have 10 ounces at the personal residence, grow up to 12 house plants, and 15 grams of concentrate in devices. It is illegal to bring onto any K-12 campus and will continue to remain a felony, if any trace of marijuana is brought into any federal building. Another important rule is employers can choose to fire or not hire if an employee fails a drug test, even though recreational weed is now legal, which is important for students to hear and understand. Legalization of marijuana does not promote free-for-all use, it seeks to regulate the selling and usage of it. The potential economic boom from the sales taxing of it can seductive, but overall the discussions need to be rooted in public safety.
Driving high is illegal and will remain so, regardless of age or legalization. Citizens need to be educated on the rules and understand that breaking those rules will lead to serious consequences.