Column: Education key to reforming pot
It’s time that Michigan legalize marijuana — and millennials will be the ones to do it. A friend of mine, Garett Roush, recently penned a tell-all piece in Rare Politics about the importance of medical marijuana and how Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ stance on marijuana is dangerous for patients in need. Garett’s story matters — as a Michigan native epileptic college student and political activist, medical marijuana liberated him from his grand mal seizures. Without it, he’d be left to live his life in fear of the next potential episode.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. Plenty of states now have legal medical and recreational marijuana to the benefit of patients and their state economies. And it’s time that the Wolverine State does the same. Michigan is looking to become the ninth state in the United States to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2018. While polling looks promising, it is not a clear indicator whether it’s going to pass come 2018. Right now, 57 percent of voters express support for the initiative.
Delving further into the numbers, one could find a divide in opinion on the subject between adults and youth, with adults leaning more against recreational marijuana and youth supporting it. With this being the case, young people need to turn out in Michigan — unlike past elections. Millennials — who are now tied nationally with baby boomers for the largest voting bloc — need to make the change we want to see in our lifetime.
But some wonder how recreational marijuana benefits Michigan. Two words: safety and research. With the legalization of recreational marijuana, the state could save millions of dollars a year by not jailing non-violent marijuana offenders. It not only saves taxpayer dollars, but it also keeps families together. It also liberates researchers. It opens up an entirely new field that can research the potential uses of the marijuana plant.
If the goal of prohibition is to keep marijuana out of the hands of youth, then it has failed. Instead, young adults go through a dangerous black market to acquire marijuana. Regulated marijuana would have labels, product information, branding and more in the free market. Consumers would know what they were getting.
More access to information and resources from reliable businesses could help young adults make responsible decisions.
Under the current law, Michigan breeds a culture of fear around marijuana use. It further exacerbates misinformation and therefore people don’t fully understand the issue. This needs to change. Whether a person chooses to use marijuana or not is a personal choice, and consumers and researchers should not be demonized for their non-violent choices.
A plethora of information and education on alcohol use is readily available to young adults. Instead of the state and other organizations force-feeding young adults prohibition rhetoric, they should be fostering an open debate and dialogue about the real facts regarding marijuana — that it’s actually less harmful than alcohol.
Michigan’s young people must take action on this issue. This isn’t about party nor bias, this is about the facts. Millennials must stand up and take action against prohibition in Michigan. If we don’t, we’ll continue to pay the price.
Bradley Lake is campus coordinator for Students for Liberty at Central Michigan University.