As support for recreational marijuana legalization in Michigan increases, the likelihood of a ballot proposal to enact the necessary legislation is becoming a reality.
According to MLive, a new poll conducted by EPIC-MRA of Lansing reports that 50 percent of Michigan voters would be likely to support a future ballot proposal to legalize the possession or cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older and allow taxable sales at state-licensed stores.
The Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative Committee plans to start its fundraising drive by May using both paid and volunteer workers to collect the needed 250,000 petition signatures.
Ending marijuana prohibition in Michigan would reduce violent crime and drug-related crime, while keeping the millions currently spent on incarceration and enforcement in the pockets of taxpayers.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, since Colorado stores started selling recreational pot in January of 2014 after voters chose to legalize it, drug-related crimes remained steady or dropped statewide.
In addition, there has been no spike in traffic fatalities from drugged driving, according to the Washington Post. And the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting data shows that violent crime is down 5.2 percent statewide.
Critics might point to the uptick in arson property crimes, but this could be explained by the explosions of amateur home labs (none of which have resulted in deaths).
These makeshift labs, while now legal, are what marijuana entrepreneurs are left with when the state government has made it so expensive -- with taxes, fees, and licensure laws -- to start a brick-and-mortar business.
Along with potential costs of poor crop yields a marijuana dispenser may face, applying for and upgrading their medical or recreational licenses, city and state applications, inspection and permit fees could cost as much as $20,000.
Other costs – including tight land-use laws, packaging rules and legal and accounting fees to comply with aggressive, multiyear IRS audits – add to the list of reasons positive effects of marijuana legalization are not having a bigger impact in legalized, but regulated, states like Colorado.
In July of 2014, The New York Times reported that of the 334 vendor licenses authorized for the first wave of stores, only about 20 had been granted.
Of course, economics teaches us that as a shortage of stores are trying to meet a great new demand and goods are taxed heavily, higher prices for pot consumers are inevitable. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for regulated stores to stamp out the already-established black market and their lower prices.
According to the Associated Press, Colorado is saving money by taking in $76 million in taxes and fees on marijuana sales for 2014 instead of spending $145 million on enforcing prohibition laws. Michigan would benefit from not spending $300 million for the enforcement of its own prohibition laws, says MCCLR Chairman Jeffrey Hank.
But with the simultaneous tax on the marijuana sales and heavy-handed business regulations, critics should not rush to demean what will be a slow-moving and small recovery from their drug prohibition should Michiganders vote to pass regulated, but legalized marijuana sales.