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On the issue of legalizing pot, today is the day state lawmakers should get off their’s and act to approve the recreational use of the drug in the most responsible way possible.

The state Legislature has until midnight to OK the citizens initiative submitted by supporters of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The drive garnered enough signatures to earn a spot on the November ballot, and that’s where it will go if lawmaker don’t pre-emptively turn it into law.

They should, for a couple of reasons.

First, it is in the Republican-controlled Legislature’s self-interest to keep pot legalization off the ballot. The measure enjoys wide popularity, and supporters are intensely passionate about the issue. Those voters tend to lean Democratic, and the GOP, already facing tough odds in the mid-term elections, don’t need to give Democrats another reason to go to the polls.

Passing legalization into law will also give the Legislature more control in shaping the enabling legislation. Lawmakers can study how legal recreational pot is working in other states, take some lessons from Michigan’s own experience with medical marijuana, and craft a framework that protects the interests of the state and its communities.

Some Republicans have suggested using the process to make pot legal, but put in place such onerous restrictions that for all practical purposes recreational use would remain a crime.

That would be both deceitful and dumb.

The prevailing trend nationally is for decriminalizing pot. Lawmakers should know that if they try to derail it with bogus enabling legislation, supporters will come back again with another petition drive.

Better for them to put in place the right framework for Michigan, one that legalizes pot, maximizes the tax revenue to be gained from its sale, and does as much as possible to minimize the negative impact.

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