NOTE: this article appeared as a column in the Michigan Cannabis Industries Report’s November 2018 issue.
Here We Go Again
It’s election season. Time to lie about cannabis.
As a journalist who has covered the cannabis scene for over 25 years, I believe I’ve heard just about every argument for keeping cannabis illegal. Furthermore, the opposition’s talking points haven’t changed. We’re still addressing the same groundless claims that were made 50 years ago by anti-cannabis factions.
Michigan’s 2018 election cycle features Proposal 1, a strongly supported ballot initiative, which would legalize recreational use. As expected, the rhetoric of “reefer madness” has been on full display.
To be fair, the discourse does provide laughs. But it sure would be a lot funnier if so much weren’t at stake—things like personal liberty, freedom from prosecution and generating a new, vibrant stream of economic growth for a state that so badly needs it.
The unceasing task is combatting the illogical, unresearched dogma of those who seek to continue the War on Drugs. As Election Day nears, here are some painful highlights.
Brian Calley (R), candidate for Attorney General: “Having another mind-altering substance out there kind of with the endorsement of the state or government on it I think is a bad thing. If it passes though like tobacco, alcohol, and those sorts of things, we will have to come up with a regulatory system in order to make sure that we keep it as far away from kids as we can.”
Are we hearing you right, Brian? You wanna keep cannabis illegal because the government already endorses dangerous substances? In other words, the government has already betrayed constituents twice, so you’d rather not repeat the misdeeds. And, if Prop 1 passes, it sounds like you’d really rather not set up a required regulatory agency. So, basically, Calley chooses to ignore the innumerable studies touting the benefits of cannabis and expresses an aversion to doing actual legislative work.
Antrim County Prosecuting Attorney James Rossiter fears traffic accidents would be a problem with legalized recreational marijuana, as there was a 100 percent increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities in Colorado after legalization.
Rossiter’s pants must be on fire. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Highway Safety Analysis, the actual number of traffic deaths involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana rose by 11 percent last year in Colorado, while the number of “cannabis-involved fatalities” fell by 33 percent. Significantly, Colorado transportation and public safety officials say the spike in pot-related traffic fatalities cannot be definitively linked to legalized marijuana.
Scott Greenlee, President of Healthy and Productive Michigan, threatens: “More marijuana available means more access for kids, and no one thinks that is a good idea.”
When all else fails, cannabis foes invoke “what about the kids,” Prop 1 establishes laws and guidelines to prevent children’s access. You know, like a liquor store where you show your I.D. to prove your age, or when you buy cigarettes. And the issue is not more marijuana; recreational users want safe access to cannabis products that meet with a regulatory agency’s approval.
Former Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville adds: “This ballot proposal mainly targets children. It has nothing to do with adults. It has everything to do with getting children involved in [the cannabis] market,” he added.
Proposal 1 was designed to allow adults aged 21 years or older to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. What part of that targets kids? By the way, Randy, the sales tax of 10 percent levied on marijuana sales would be allocated to aid K-12 education. So if improving schools targets children, Prop 1 supporters are guilty as charged.
Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson warns: “The black market is still thriving in the states that have legalized marijuana, to the point where innocent neighborhoods have seen an influx of drug cartels going into their neighborhoods and turning them upside down.”
The best lies generate fear. It’s instructive that law enforcement routinely refers to any drug trafficking organization as a “cartel.” That means a couple growers growing too many plants can qualify.
Cartels generally stick to illegal activity. It’s unclear why a cartel would set up shop in a legal environment. A Gillette New-Record investigative article bears this out, revealing that none of the 650 illegal grow operations in El Paso and Teller counties in Colorado could be tied to international cartels.
Major law enforcement officials scoff at the claims as well. Tim Gorman, director of the federally funded anti-marijuana police organization Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, says: “What we have a tendency to do is think if there’s a Mexican involved in Colorado, they’re cartels,” said. “Probably not.”
The biggest fibs arise from the Michigan Catholic Conference: “Recreational marijuana teaches harmful lessons: that altering reality with a drug is desirable over hard work, that feelings and responsibilities should be numbed rather than dealt with, and that seeking happiness from an object is sustainable. Are these lessons worth teaching to the next generation? Marijuana can also contribute to the breakdown of the family. There is substantial evidence that when marijuana use begins before adulthood, drug dependence surfaces more quickly. As these individuals become parents, dependence issues can produce chaotic and stress-filled homes, which harms child well being and models behavior that continues the cycle of abuse. Many children have been introduced to the foster care system because they were harmfully exposed to marijuana during pregnancy or childhood, or because they were exposed to dangerous living conditions while their parents were growing marijuana. During pregnancy, emerging evidence suggests an association between marijuana and fetal growth restriction, stillbirth, and preterm birth.”
This is called the “throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks” argument. Nothing does. Using cannabis is not a reflection of one’s morality, nor does it detract from one’s work ethic. There is no medical substantiation of harm to a fetus due to cannabis use, while citing potential family breakdown is patently ridiculous, as millions of moms and dads will tell you. It goes without saying that the Catholic Church doesn’t have a lot of credibility when it comes to protecting children.
Nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters likely to vote in favor of Prop 1, clear evidence that propaganda is being rejected. But data from the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy suggests that only 21 percent of local officials support the measure. Prop 1 may pass, but setting the truth free may take a while longer.
Malcolm MacKinnon is the former editor of HIGH TIMES. His work appears monthly in the Michigan Cannabis Industries Report. See more at MalcolmMacKinon.com