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From the Daily: Advancing recreational pot

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published November 4, 2010

Tuesday’s elections shook up politics in Michigan and nationally. With the incoming conservative majority in both houses of the Michigan legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives, the future of marijuana laws is more uncertain than ever. California tried to completely legalize recreational marijuana use with Proposition 19, which failed narrowly. This ballot initiative, though unsuccessful, was a positive development in marijuana legislation. Michigan should follow California’s failure with success, despite the state’s newly Republican government. State residents must put pressure on the legislature to ensure that Michigan is at the forefront of progressive marijuana legislation.

On Tuesday, the vote to legalize recreational marijuana use in California failed 54 percent to 46 percent. The proposal sought to permit the sale of marijuana like alcohol, making it legal to purchase and grow for people over the age of 21. The proposal also would have made it legal for retailers to sell marijuana. California was one of the first states to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1996. Though Proposition 19 failed, 10 California cities approved increased taxes on medical and recreational marijuana. There are plans to put together a new initiative for the March ballot to create a medicinal marijuana tax in California.

Michigan’s medicinal marijuana law has been the subject of controversy since it passed in 2008 because of ambiguous wording that makes it difficult for people to fill their prescriptions. But despite its problems, the legalization of medicinal marijuana was an important step for progressive drug policy. Complete legalization should be the next goal. Not only is marijuana a non-addictive substance, but it also has the ability to generate tax revenue for the state like any other product.

Among the slew of Republicans elected on Tuesday is Michigan’s attorney general-elect, Bill Schuette, who doesn’t support medical marijuana. When Shuette takes office in January, it’s important that he doesn’t take advantage of the problems with the state’s medical marijuana law and go against the voters’ wishes. Regardless of Shuette’s stance on medical marijuana, he has an obligation to fight for concise legislation supported by the voters who elected him.

With an incoming Republican majority in the state House and Senate, it appears that medical marijuana isn’t going to get much support from the legislative level, either. So it’s up to Michigan residents to push for progressive legislation. Residents should contact representatives and senators to lobby for clear, progressive marijuana legislation. The medicinal marijuana law needs to be revised immediately, so people trying to receive legitimate prescription medication aren’t treated like criminals.

Residents should also encourage the legislature to take precedent-setting action and legalize recreational marijuana. The push for recreational use isn’t over nationally. California made great strides with Proposition 19. Now, Michigan should lead the way.

Michigan shouldn’t keep riding California’s coattails. Michigan must lead the way for other states to implement more progressive laws. Residents need to bring this issue to their representatives and senators to put Michigan at the forefront of marijuana legislation.