The End Of An Era (1905-2018)

Michigan Moves to End the Costly and Wasteful Carnage of Cannabis Prohibition

Posted In: Politics, State, Local, Opinion,   From Issue 854   By: Greg Schmid

07th December, 2017     0

The following is a quote from President Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman.

“You want to know what this was really all about,” Ehrlichman said of the drug war. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”

Marijuana is now roundly accepted as having beneficial medical uses which date back over 5,000 years, many centuries before the likes of Queen Victoria, President George Washington, and President John F. Kennedy used cannabis for therapeutic relief. Hemp (non-intoxicating cannabis) has a long history of industrial uses like paper, rope, clothing, sails, oils, and fuel. 

Cannabis has a downside: it tends to cause a mild euphoria which can last several hours, and it can get you arrested.

America does not have a public policy against adult intoxication; quite to the contrary, Americans love their spirits. The Prohibition Era (1920-1933) ended after it proved not to stop drinking, but rather to push drinking underground where it could not be taxed and regulated for safety.  Millions of otherwise honest citizens broke the prohibition law daily. People were poisoned by unregulated unsanitary bathtub spirits. Government tax revenues fell. Bribery and corruption made corrupt politicians and criminal syndicates rich. Detroit became a hub for smuggling. Al Capone acquired many Michigan beachfront properties with profits from bootleg booze.

Alcohol and tobacco use is perfectly legal in all states. Cannabis remains illegal under federal law, and remains a serious crime in Michigan, except for about 200,000 medical users registered with the government.  Adult cannabis users continue to go to jail and forfeit property without exhibiting actual bad behaviors. 2015 Michigan State Police data shows 23,893 arrests involving marijuana, which accounted for about 9% of all criminal arrests. 

Your tax dollars sponsor the "War on Drugs." Courthouses, probation departments, state and local police spend scarce time and resources processing marijuana "offenders," making liars and criminals out of people who are neither. Cannabis users are the "low hanging fruit" of the criminal justice industry precisely because ordinary law-abiding citizens use pot; they are a safe and easy arrest.  Nearly 55 million Americans (22%) say they currently use cannabis. Almost 59 million Americans smoke cigarettes. Over 50% of Americans drink (about 25% of Americans prefer beer).

In 2016 voters in four states (California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada) approved adult-use recreational marijuana. Colorado and Washington measures passed the first such measures in 2012. In 2017, 20 states have bills pending that would legalize adult-use marijuana: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia. A bill considered in Hawaii would authorize counties to adopt legal marijuana policies. 22 states and DC have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, meaning small, personal-consumption amounts are generally a civil or local infraction, not a crime.

In Michigan, the Republican party dominated legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Facilities and Licensing Act in 2016 to provide for licensed production and retail sale of Medical marijuana only. The State of Michigan will begin issuing licenses for official medical marijuana dispensaries in mid-December. The 2016 measure stopped short of legalizing adult use for so-called recreational use, and set up an elaborate big-business friendly licensing process, which is absurd because it reinforces a legal fiction; about 95% of registered medical marijuana users complain of subjective symptoms like sever and chronic pain. This "doctor's note" routine is the same rouse that gave drinkers, but not purveyors, a loophole during the last prohibition era.

Now Michigan citizen groups have collected and submitted petition signatures to propose an initiative statute on the November 2018 ballot for voter approval. The proposal would legalize private adult use and possession of cannabis, with an extra 10% cannabis sales tax, while effectively keeping cannabis away from kids, cars, and the public. Adults could grow a dozen plants per household for themselves like beer drinkers make homebrew. Industrial hemp would be a legal farm crop.  

Once petition signatures are verified by the state, the proposal would first be forwarded to the legislature for adoption within 40 days, or placement on the ballot next fall. 64 percent of Americans now support legalization, the highest percentage ever in Gallup polling. 51% of Republicans support legalization. 67% of Independents and 72% of Democrats favor of legal marijuana for adults. 

Few serious people doubt the will of the people to legalize cannabis this year, but there are some shady interest groups who are determined to turn back the clock on this important reform for the sake of profits. Review staff encourage all people to contact your state lawmakers and encourage them to pass the initiative proposal now, so that our government can get to work healing the many harmful effects that prohibition has brought upon us.

Prohibition is bad public policy and it challenges the Rule of Law due to its over-reach. Laws that don’t respect people breed people who don’t respect laws. Good government must respect the right of adults to choose cannabis just as others choose beer, wine, and tobacco.

It is high time to end the Cannabis Prohibition Era.

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