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November 12, 2018, Michigan
On Nov 6, 2018, Michigan voters approved the legalization of recreational cannabis in the state with a wide margin. According to exit polls, the support for legal adult-use cannabis has transcended party lines. By legalizing recreational use, Michigan has also become a leader of cannabis reforms among the Midwestern states.
According to Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Communications Director Josh Hovey, the group that spearheaded the successful canvassing of Proposition 1, the legalization of recreational use in Michigan has been devised on the template used by pioneer legal states of Washington and Colorado. By looking at the groundwork, it has been estimated that cannabis stores start operating in the year after next. Hovey thinks that the retail provision of marijuana can start sooner if things go as planned.
Until the opening of cannabis stores, Michiganders can take the advantage of one of the stipulations of Proposition 1 that allows domestic cultivation of the strain. Moreover, small registered cannabis growers will also be allowed to directly sell up to 150 plants without needing any liaison.
The battle of fear and fact
Cannabis advocacy groups claim that they offered facts to the voters, meanwhile anti-legalization groups primarily focused on spreading fear. It is indeed true that during the canvassing before the public ballot, cannabis groups were publishing whitepapers highlighting the economic implications of the legalization and its role in shedding the unnecessary burden of law enforcement entities.
On the other hand, anti-cannabis groups were more interested in propagating rhetoric centered on fear similar to the Reefer Madness propaganda. Nevertheless, the verdict given by voters in the ballot shows that facts have won the fight against fear.
However, some concerns regarding wide scale cannabis commercialization are valid. For instance, driving under the influence and increased use of marijuana among the younger population are legitimate concerns when it comes to blanket legalization of marijuana. But the data from Colorado and Washington implies that blanket legalization doesn’t exacerbate the aforementioned issues.
Marijuana and Midwest
Matt Schweich, deputy director of Marijuana Policy Project, is of the opinion that the approval of Proposition 1 will prove to be a catalyst for the cannabis legalization movements in Midwestern states of Ohio and Illinois. He also thinks that marijuana reforms are now a bipartisan issue and the momentum for legalization will not confine to the West and Northeast anymore. Schweich has also commended the role of ballot initiatives in the legalization of the strain. All the legal states have taken up cannabis reforms through ballot initiative except Vermont.
The blanket legalization of cannabis will also streamline its medical uses. With the legalization of cannabis for adult-use, people won’t need physicians’ recommendation to obtain cannabis products to treat their medical ailments. MMJ programs are always restricted through a list of qualifying conditions and citizens have to go through a long-drawn-out process to get access to legally available medical cannabis. Blanket legalization will certainly change that for the better.