In the coming weeks, Michigan will vote on a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. Between increased tax revenue, the birth of a new industry in the private sector and falling arrest rates, legalization of marijuana in Michigan would be extremely lucrative to the statewide economy. Michigan is currently one of 30 states that allows marijuana use for medical purposes, but a “yes” vote on Proposal 1 this November would legalize recreational use, while a “no” vote would continue to only allow medical access to marijuana. Michigan joins four other states who have the hot-button issue of marijuana legalization on the ballot this year, while nine states across the country have already taken initiative in legalizing. Despite a long historical taboo against marijuana, obvious economic benefits have spurred a wave of nationwide acceptance and encouragement of legalization. We, the Michigan Daily Editorial Board, encourage our readership to vote yes on Proposal 1 for legalization of recreational marijuana use.

To be clear, Proposal 1 would legalize recreational marijuana use for those 21 and older and personal possession would be limited to 2.5 ounces, while households are allowed to store up to 10 ounces and 12 plants. The measure would create an excise sales tax of 10 percent on all marijuana sales at retailers, and that tax revenue would be allocated to local government, K-12 education and statewide repairs to roads and bridges. The proposal also legalizes the cultivation, processing, distribution and sale of industrial hemp. However, if passed, local communities would be able to ban or limit marijuana retailers within their municipal boundaries, thereby protecting the autonomy of local communities.

With a 10 percent sales tax, legalization would bring a much needed new stream of revenue into Michigan schools, roads, bridges and local governments. States like Washington and Colorado bring in millions of dollars per year off of tax revenue and it is estimated that marijuana taxation alone in Michigan will rake in $100 to $200 million per year to be allocated across the state. In a state with crumbling infrastructure and an infamous public K-12 education system, it’s evident that Michigan should use every potential extra funding source. In a statewide poll in June, 70 percent of Michigan citizens agreed that public schools are not sufficiently funded, a fact that is reflected in poor testing performance. Michigan is one of only five states that showed a decline in reading performance scores since 2003. Without intervention, it is clear that this trend cannot change.

Meanwhile, between 2014 and 2017, the Transportation Asset Management Council reported that road conditions statewide were declining at a faster rate than they could be improved, leading to a slow deterioration of roads statewide. Roads, bridges and water sources are all seeing similar declines statewide. The water problems in Flint could have been solved much more rapidly, or even prevented altogether had there been more infrastructure funding and there are currently multiple other water sources across the state that need attention as well. Though the projected tax revenue may not be much in comparison to the entire statewide budget, every dollar counts in investment for the future.

The creation of an entirely new private sector due to marijuana retail will give rise to new jobs and businesses. In 2015, the legal marijuana industry in Colorado created roughly 18,000 jobs and Michigan could see similar, or even greater, job creation given Michigan’s larger population in comparison to Colorado.

Though this initiative in Michigan could lead to similar economic benefits as other states who have legalized recreational marijuana, Proposal 1 does not fully address the past criminalization of marijuana. Though many may benefit in the future, legalization does not address decriminalization. Those who have been arrested for marijuana use in the past would still be incarcerated or have illegal marijuana usage on their records. Though Proposal 1 is a step in the right direction toward restorative justice, those affected by the past criminalization of marijuana will still live with the consequences even if marijuana use is voted into legality. Hopefully, Proposal 1 is just the tip of the iceberg in helping thousands to expunge past infractions from their records, and allow them the capability of bettering their own lives and thus, the economy. Proposal 1 is a real, tangible way to invest in the education, infrastructure and safety of the next generation of Michigan citizens, and we at the Michigan Daily Editorial Board encourage you all to get out and vote “yes” on Proposal 1.

For a full list of The Michigan Daily Editorial Board’s endorsements for the 2018 midterm elections, click here.

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