Black Detroiters arrive at cannabis crossroads

As the fight to free the weed wages on in Michigan, voters will finally get the opportunity to determine whether or not to legalize marijuana for recreational use when they go to the polls on Nov. 6.  The Michigan State Board of Canvassers unanimously approved the ballot initiative after it ruled that an advocate group seeking to take the issue of legalization to the voters had successfully secured enough signatures to place the question on the ballot for the upcoming mid-term election.
Recent polls indicate that more than 60 percent of Michiganders support legalizing marijuana. As citizens across Michigan prepare to vote on the measure that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, black voters may prove to be the crucial swing vote in determining the outcome of the historic ballot proposal. The black community however is divided on the issue of legalization, with many local leaders touting that a key benefit of decriminalization would be the reduction of arrests, prosecution and imprisonment of young black would decline dramatically, others fear it will encourage more drug use.
Michigan citizens overwhelmingly voted in favor of legislation in 2008 to allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes. The measure initially led to the opening of more than 250 dispensaries in Detroit. But following a relatively confusing and frenzied effort to determine how to best regulate the bourgeoning businesses, the city shuttered many of its dispensaries, leaving only about 70 to continue operating under emergency rules crafted by the state.
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In November of last year, Detroiters shot down challenges to relax regulations for dispensary operations and approved two city ordinances to increase access. The Detroit Medical Marijuana Facilities Ordinance allows dispensaries to remain open for longer hours, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m and the accompanying Detroit Zoning Ordinance for Medical Marijuana Facilities ordinance allows dispensaries to open within 500 feet of another dispensary. They would also be allowed to open within 500 feet of exempt religious institutions where religious services are regularly conducted.
Both measures lead to speculation that legalization of marijuana for recreational use was on the horizon since an apparently more liberal view of the issue was taking root in the city, recognizing the potential of marijuana legalization creating a much-needed revenue stream to aid in Detroit’s economic resurgence.
But as opponents decried the expansion and worried that the city was on slippery slope into moral decay, and proponents of legalization hoped the political skids were sufficiently greased and the time was right to get on the cash crop bandwagon, a strong anti-marijuana contingency has reemerged and threatens to thwart the move which has the potential of generating record profits on the level of those realized in other cannabis friendly cities like Denver.  The Mie-High city is the oldest recreational marijuana market in the nation with 1.5 billion in sales in 2017.
According to Forbes magazine North American sales surged by 30 percent in 2016 to $6.7 billion. Sales are projected to reach $20.2 billion by 2021.
And then there is the issue of jobs. The legal U.S. marijuana industry — both medical and recreational — grossed about $7.1 billion in sales in 2016.
Along with the slippery slope of moral behavior argument espoused by opponents of legalization, other detractors opine that legalization would lead to more crime and employment issues because it is believed most employers don’t want to hire workers who smoke weed, although employers around the nation are doing away with testing recruits and new hires for marijuana use, opting to
The morality argument apparently didn’t hold much sway with voters, possibly considering the contrary argument presented by legalization supporters that unless the legalization of tobacco and alcohol is rolled back then continuing to criminalize marijuana makes no sense. There has yet to be any proof shown that marijuana is in any way more harmful than cigarettes or alcohol, nor can a convincing argument be made that legalization will somehow dramatically increase the number of marijuana smokers.
The Michigan marijuana ballot proposal would:

  • Legalize the possession and sale of up to 2½ ounces of marijuana for personal, recreational use.
  • Impose a 10% excise tax on marijuana sales at the retail level as well as a 6% sales tax. The estimated revenues from the taxes are at least $100 million.
  • Split those revenues with 35 percent going to K-12 education, 35 percent to roads, 15 percent to the communities that allow marijuana businesses in their borders and 15 percent to counties where marijuana business are located.
  • Allow communities to decide whether they’ll permit marijuana businesses.
  • Restrict purchases of marijuana for recreational purposes to 2½ ounces but an individual could keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana at home.
  • Allow the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), and not the politically appointed licensing board that will regulate the medical marijuana side of the market, to regulate and license marijuana businesses, ranging from growers, transporters, testers and dispensaries.
  • Set up three classes of marijuana growers: up to 100, 500 and 2,000 plants



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