The color of weed is green: And not just the color of the plant…

the-marijuana-industry-could-soon-make-more-revenue-than-the-nflThere’s money to be made in those weeds, folks.
Not that money is everything. It’s not. And certainly it’s important to be mindful of where money comes from and/or how it’s earned. Not all money is good money.
But if we stack up that mile high list of all the things Detroit still needs to become a fully functional city again? It’s probably safe to say that money is dancing around all by itself at the very tippy top of that list. All by itself. Not a partner in sight. Money doesn’t just rank as first place. It ranks first, second, and third.
Which brings us back to those weeds. As in marijuana. Green Gold.
It’s important to be respectful of those who, particularly in the religious community, still strongly believe that the legalization of marijuana is the wrong path, no matter how much revenue the legalization of said marijuana might deposit into the city’s coffers. Hard to put a price on sin, or the soul of a city.
Understood. But still…
Here’s the thing: the bankruptcy, as distasteful as it was to many because of the distasteful way in which it was done, still appears to have cleared the decks to make way for some progress. But even with that, the fact remains that Detroit needs to lock down some more stable sources of dependable revenue. Because as it stands, Detroit’s population continues to dwindle, more than one-third of the city’s population lives below the poverty line, nearly 50 percent of the city’s population is functionally illiterate, and (the lack of) property tax revenue has had everybody running scared for years. Sure, property valuation in the actual City of Detroit – not just Metro Detroit – is finally beginning to inch up, but nowhere near fast enough to produce the kind of tax revenue that is needed. As for what Detroit gets from the casinos, well, the casinos have been in town for quite some time now and the gravy train has yet to pull into the station.
Meanwhile, in Denver, Colorado, the tax revenue from legalized marijuana is so bountiful that the state is faced with the dilemma of possibly having to refund some of that revenue to the voters. Why? Because the taxes on weed brought in too much money.
From The New York Times:
“A year after Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales, millions of tax dollars are rolling in, dedicated to funding school construction, marijuana education campaigns and armies of marijuana inspectors and regulators. But a legal snarl may force the state to hand that money back to marijuana consumers, growers and the public — and lawmakers do not want to.
“The problem is a strict anti-spending provision in the state Constitution that touches every corner of public life, like school funding, state health care, local libraries and road repairs. Technical tripwires in that voter-approved provision, known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, may require Colorado to refund nearly $60 million in marijuana taxes because the state’s overall revenue estimates ended up being too low when the marijuana tax question was put to voters.”
There’s money in those weeds, folks, and it looks like at long last that message is beginning to create a crack in the wall of resistance- although financial desperation may have a considerable amount to do with that crack. On Sept. 8, Detroit City Councilman James Tate said he may be introducing an ordinance to regulate the licensing and location of medical marijuana dispensaries as early as this week. According to the Detroit Free Press: 
“Tate said Tuesday that he has been working with city lawyers, the Detroit Police Department and council colleagues on an ordinance that would establish licensing for the dispensaries and dictate where they can be located in relation to schools, parks, churches and adult-entertainment sites.
“Tate said drafters of the ordinance have studied how other cities in Michigan and around the country have set up similar regulations that respect the need for safe access to medical marijuana while also limiting the dispensaries’ impact on neighborhoods.
“The issue has become a big concern of people who live in parts of the city that Tate says are oversaturated with dispensaries. He said there are 21 of them in Detroit’s District 1, which he represents.”
To true weed legalization advocates, this might not appear like much of a victory. Councilman Scott Benson has referred to the dispensaries in his district as “glorified weed spots”, and the mood hardly appears welcoming to full legalization, which would include recreational use such as is currently permitted in Denver. Under Michigan state law, residents who possess state registry cards can use marijuana for medical use, but that’s it.
Still, compared to where Detroit was on the issue not that many years ago, it seems like there is at least an acknowledgment of the changing tide that is headed our way.
Keep in mind that it was only two years ago in October, 2013, when Michigan State Sen. Coleman Alexander Young II, son of the late Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young, teamed up with several colleagues in the Michigan House to present legislation (SB 626S and HB 4623) strongly in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. Representing the city of Detroit, Young openly disagreed with many of the more conservative, influential black pastors of his district who continue to oppose decriminalizing the drug. Young expressed concern that punitive marijuana laws were doing more – not less – to wreck the lives of black youngsters, particularly black males, who are already more predisposed to being burdened with a criminal record at a young age.
According to the 2014 Michigan Voters Guide, in response to the question “Do you support decriminalization of recreational marijuana?” Young responded that he was in favor of decriminalizing marijuana because of the havoc such unfair laws are wreaking on too many Michigan families, a disproportionate number of whom are African American.
“Minorities are arrested at a rate 3 times higher in the State of Michigan and 4 times higher in the nation than, Caucasian counterparts,” said Young.
No action was taken on the proposed legislation by the Judiciary Committee in 2013 and not much happened last year either – at least not on the State level. Young’s colleague in the House, Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor who sponsored the companion legislation pushing for lessening penalties against marijuana possession (HB 4623), continued to press his belief that relaxing the laws against marijuana possession is the only sensible way to go.
Ultimately we should move toward legalization and a system of regulation and taxation,” he said.
Recent polls show that a noticeable majority of Michigan voters, including in Detroit, are in favor of decriminalization. But as recently as last year, some of the municipalities where laws were passed to decriminalize marijuana (like Ferndale and Detroit) continued to prosecute in blatant violation of what their own citizens said loud and clear at the ballot box. Michigan law states that possession of any amount of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor which can result in a sentence of one year behind bars and a maximum fine of $2,000. Use of marijuana is also a misdemeanor that can result in a maximum sentence of 90 days imprisonment and a maximum fine of $100.
Now with a ballot proposal slated to appear for Michigan voters in 2016, it looks like the efforts of Irwin and Young are beginning to bear some long-delayed fruit. From the website of the Safer Michigan Coalition (Dec. 2014):
“Thanks to voters who supported a legalization measure in November, the personal use of marijuana is now perfectly legal in Mount Pleasant. And Saginaw. And Berkley. And Port Huron, too. Indeed, this year was a big one for supporters of legalization in Michigan, who won referendums to liberalize marijuana in eight of 13 towns across the state — all on a budget so small, it would make most advocates in Washington gasp.”
Then there was this from Detroit’s own Larry Gabriel, former editor of the Metro Times and currently editor of  The American Cultivator, who said in April:
“Two different groups are backing petition initiatives that would put the question of legalizing recreational marijuana on the 2016 ballot, and Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) is gearing up to introduce legalization legislation in the state House.
“Irwin has introduced similar legislation in the past that went nowhere. That happened with legislation addressing edibles and dispensaries in last year’s session. The Republican-dominated Legislature has shown little inclination to address anything relaxing access to marijuana. What makes this year any different?
“The fact that the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative Committee (MCCLRIC) has announced its intention to circulate petitions to put recreational legalization on the ballot next year makes it different. Also,
another group, the Michigan Responsibility Council (MRC), has reportedly been preparing their own petition for a different system of legalization.
“The MCCLRIC campaign, known as MI Legalize, is made up of many of the activists and organizations that backed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act and many of the municipal decriminalization efforts the past several years.”
It just might be time to inhale.

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