Editor’s Note: Get pot legalization right

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Prediction: Recreational marijuana use will be legal in Michigan within two years. The door that cracked with the approval of medical pot use is now wide open. A Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll finds that 56 percent of state residents favor legalizing marijuana for general use.

That will embolden backers of petition drives aimed at getting marijuana legalization on the November 2016 ballot. If the issue makes it on the ballot, it will pass.

But it should be done right. The problem with the medical pot authorization is that it kept too many trappings of the illegal drug trade in place. For example, the pot is produced for the most part not by commercial growers but by the patients themselves, or their caregivers. And it’s sold primarily in single purpose outlets that could pass as head shops.

That’s led to constant confusion about where the line between legal and illegal falls, and has landed a lot of well-intentioned people in jail.

If pot is legalized, it should be treated exactly as is alcohol. It should be produced by licensed commercial facilities. When prohibition ended, bath tub gin and moonshine stills pretty much disappeared; so should backyard pot plots. The content should be controlled by state regulation, just like it is for whiskey, wine and beer. And it should be sold in mainstream outlets that are licensed and inspected.

Handling it like alcohol would protect children. It’s easier for a kid now to buy a bag of weed than it is a six-pack of Bud because state law has removed alcohol from the underground economy.

Legalization is coming. Michigan should start preparing to get it right.