NOTE: this article appeared as a column in the Michigan Cannabis Industries Report’s October 2018 issue.
Defining This Moment
Get excited, but realize there is much work yet to be done
from the monthly column, “Detroit Watch” by Larry Gabriel
We’re in a moment here, a marijuana moment where time seems suspended in a dream state as we seek to rush forward but our feet are stuck in the mud. As the marijuana world inflates and expands folks here want to more fully participate but still must hesitate before letting go.
Folks are getting stoked. Time magazine welcomed readers to the beginning of the end of the war on pot in dedicating a special edition this fall with the headline, “Marijuana goes Main Street.” It couldn’t have come at a timelier moment for the marijuana movement in Michigan as we approach a vote for legalization on Nov. 6. And it’s spot on with the Oct. 17 legalization in Canada.
Many mainstream media outlets have had their come to cannabis moment that made a big splash. National Geographic, CNN and the New York Times have had them. When Dr. Sanjay Gupta said that medical marijuana is real on CNN in 2013 it was a turning point in public perception. Step by step barriers to cannabis acceptance are falling.
It seems certain that marijuana legalization is on the horizon and big opportunities are in place. At the same time we are in that moment in Michigan where we must hesitate before letting out a big sigh of relief. Everything has been put into place but it’s not a done deal. Recreational legalization has to win at the ballot box, and as sure as we are that marijuana will win in the long run, we’re not absolutely certain that a next step will be taken here and now.
Law enforcement joined with Healthy and Productive Michigan in a high profile anti-cannabis moment on Sept. 19 as press conferences across the state took the offensive against Proposal 1. On that day they publicized results of a poll from Target Insyght showing state voters opposing Proposal 1 by 47 to 41 percent. That’s a reversal of polls consistently showing public support for legal marijuana. A February EPIC-MRA poll showed 61 percent support for the idea. A May Victory Phones poll showed a 48-42 percent approval. An early September Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll showed 56-38 percent in favor. Finally a mid-September JMC Analytics poll showed a slim 43-40 percent lead.
Clearly the results have showed a tightening contest but the reversal suggested by the Target Insyght poll are a reversal of local and national trends.
“We, by no means, have any assumptions that this is in the bag,” Hovey told Mlive.com. “But we don’t think the numbers are an accurate reflection of what’s going on in Michigan and that, in the end, voters will end up supporting Proposal 1 in November.”
Hovey has an issue with the way the Insyght poll was taken, and seems to have confidence that the proposal to regulate marijuana like alcohol will pass. If it doesn’t it will be a reversal of national trends which show support for marijuana legalization at about 60 percent.
It would also be a change in the overwhelming tide of voters choosing to say yes to marijuana. Saying no is not unheard of. The first time California voted on recreational legalization it was defeated, and the same thing happened in Ohio in 2015. The Ohio loss was a voter rejection of the legalization plan that would have set up 10 corporate monopolies to run the marijuana business. Since then Ohio has legalized medical marijuana and will vote on a recreational initiative in 2019.
If Michigan and Ohio proposal win it will be the beginning of a cluster of states in the middle of the country. That would leave the old South as the only area of the country without a recreational marijuana state. The nine states that have legalized recreational use are clustered on the West and East Coasts, in addition to Alaska and Colorado. Nevada is not on a coast but it is nestled in there with the West Coast group which looks pretty impressive on the map.
On the other hand it’s entirely possible for trends to reverse and the next chance for that to start is in Michigan in November. That’s what defines this moment. Things could go really well but it’s possible that it would go wrong. We’re sure but we’re not sure. We can see the promised land but … no that’s not the promised land. That’s Canada right across the river where recreational legalizations has been achieved.
If we can survive this moment we’ll soon have here what they have there.
Larry Gabriel is a Detroit-based journalist who has been editor of the Metro Times, UAW Solidarity magazine and the American Cultivator, as well as an editor and writer for the Detroit Free Press. Gabriel has won several awards from the Michigan Press Association and Association of Alternative Newsmedia.