Local reaction to legalized recreational marijuana
LAKE COUNTY — Marijuana has now been legalized for recreational use in Michigan, and local authorities are weighing out the pros and cons, and preparing for any changes this could bring.
Once the law is certified, adults 21 and older can consume marijuana in their homes and on their property, also allowing for the growth of 12 marijuana plants.
By 2020, the law requires the state to start allowing for licensing of recreational marijuana shops and products. Municipalities in Michigan can choose whether to ban, limit or regulate recreational marijuana businesses.
In townships like Webber Township, where medical marijuana already is opted in, zoning administrator Michael Oisten sees the passing of Proposal 1 as a potential opportunity to further businesses and tax revenue within the township.
“My view is legalizing recreational marijuana is an opportunity for growth in our area,” he said. “We have one medical marijuana facility now, and they’d like to see a recreational facility built there. It is a chance for jobs. We would get revenue from licensing fees and tax money from the buildings and property. A percentage of tax dollars for sales goes back into the townships which have facilities in them, up to 15 percent. This is another opportunity for income in our area.”
Oisten said opposite of townships opting in for medical marijuana, they would have to actively opt out for recreational marijuana.
“It will take some time for everything to go into effect. The Michigan Recreation and Taxation of Marijuana Act still needs to be created. Within a year, everything should be set up,” he said. “Municipalities currently licensed for medical marijuana would be first in line to receive recreational marijuana licensing. If the medical marijuana business in our township wanted to add a reacreational facility, he has a good head start. The next step would be for our township board to decide regulations on recreational facilities, like what kind of facilities, or any limits. We learned a lot about medical marijuana last year. Legalized recreational marijuana is going to be a new thing to deal with for everyone.”
Sheriff Rich Martin agrees there are a lot of questions in regards to recreational marijuana.
“There are a lot of what ifs and questions with legalized recreational marijuana,” Martin said. “One concern is driving under the influence, because there is no field testing like we can do with alcohol levels. In general, we will respect what voters passed and enforce what laws are in effect.
“Anything can be abused. I am not going to say marijuana is the root of all evil. Like alcohol, it needs to be used responsibly. We will play it by ear and see what happens after the law comes into effect.”
Some officials are asking what legalized recreational marijuana means to the “say no to drugs” message, wondering if this gives a “say yes to drugs” message instead.
Baldwin Community Schools Board of Education President Shawn Washington is concerned about youth having easier access to marijuana with Proposal 1 passing.
“I sit on the Lake County coalition to reduce substance abuse among youth. I am concerned legalized marijuana can provide young people greater access,” she said. “We surveyd our youth in Baldwin Community Schools in 2016, and they reported access to marijuana has been easy. We are concerned about greater access, and from the school perspective, kids bringing marijuana to school could be an issue as well.”
Washington said a positive of the legislation would be the opportunity for tax revenue from licensing to help local areas, and is open minded towards adults choices, but she wants to make sure kids, whose brains are still developing, are protected from using substances.
“If adults make sure their recreational and medical marijuana is locked up, it will make a safer environment for youth. With their brains still developing, I don’t think recreational marijuana is a good choice for young people. I wish we could find other ways to get extra funding for our state and local municipalities,” she said.