Op-Ed: What’s up with marijuana in Michigan?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - 5:13pm

If you have ever set foot in Ann Arbor, you know why it’s called “tree city.” And we are not talking about the fall foliage — we are referring to weed.

Ever since Ann Arbor first decriminalized marijuana consumption in the 1970s, the city has been associated nationally with relatively open attitudes for the plant that persist to this day. The Michigan Daily has previously reported on current student attitudes regarding cannabis and found that the student body is generally receptive. Several medical marijuana dispensaries are located on the periphery of the University of Michigan campus, but do students really know the ins and outs on the implications of cannabis?

This is why Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Green Wolverine (affiliated with the Ross School of Business) seek to educate students on the nature of cannabis and all of its consequences for public health, policy and business. On Dec. 3, we are hosting the first annual Michigan Cannabis Leaders Summit in order to fulfill this goal.

While the legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan is potentially imminent, our state is in need of deep reckoning. As students at the University of Michigan, we find that the time is right to get other students involved in the countless facets of the recreational marijuana industry.

The joint effort between members of the University’s chapter of SSDP and Green Wolverine is one of shared outlooks regarding how students can become acquainted with cannabis. This familiarity should not just be limited to getting high; there is an entire cannabis industry in its infancy which needs future lawyers, policymakers, doctors, researchers, business leaders and many other professionals to carry out the industry’s vitality and legitimacy.

However, we recognize that students may not have positive beliefs regarding cannabis or, for that matter, may not know much at all regarding its usage. These student concerns need to be addressed. This is why SSDP and Green Wolverine both wish to educate the University community on the implications of cannabis under new legal circumstances.

Firstly, what is marijuana from a medical perspective? Marijuana can be used for a variety of ailments, including chronic pain, dementia and HIV/AIDS. Marijuana, for its medical application, need not be limited in use to the most severe of ailments; in its varying methods of consumption, marijuana may also be used as a prophylactic. While marijuana was popularized as a means to get high, cannabis consumption in general does not always lead to a psychoactive response. For example, cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, contains no psychoactive elements and has a multitude of medical benefits.

As mentioned before, the campaign to put recreational marijuana on the ballot in 2018 looks promising. If passed by the majority of Michigan voters next year, our state would look more or less like the states in which marijuana is legalized, such as Colorado and the seven other states excluding the District of Columbia that have already passed legalization measures. The ballot initiative up for consideration in Michigan, for example, would set up a system for taxation on marijuana purchases, give local governments the ability to govern how marijuana is sold in their communities and allow individuals to grow up to 12 marijuana plants at home, among other provisions.

However, the exact rollout — which is contingent upon whether or not the legalization proposal will be on the ballot — remains to be seen. Though the initiative received many more signatures than is required by state law, the secretary of state must decide whether or not to respect the wishes of the 360,000 Michigan voters who signed the proposal.

For students looking to achieve a career in the cannabis industry, the time is ripe. New businesses will need to facilitate the production, distribution and sales of recreational marijuana once Michigan votes for legalization. Other business models are also needed: ancillary businesses (who do not “touch the plant”) must also be taken into account. These businesses include those dealing in scientific testingtechnology and even private equity. According to the Detroit Free Press, full legalization would bring about $1 billion in sales annually in Michigan. This is an opportunity that must be seized.

The event, which includes a panel of experts in science, medicine, policy, activism and business, will be a worthwhile experience where students should expect to walk away with a clear picture of the still inchoate cannabis industry in Michigan. Aside from the educational component of the event, there will be networking opportunities with the panelists in addition to prize giveaways from our sponsors.

We hope this event will be a way for students to understand both the complexities and accessibility of the cannabis environment in Michigan. There could not be a more fitting time for this to occur.

The Michigan Cannabis Leaders Summit will be held in the Robertson Auditorium located within the Ross School of Business on Dec. 3 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Confirmed attendees include state Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), former state Rep. Jeff Irwin and Stephen Goldner, an adviser to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Additional attendees will come from various professions in law, science and business. The event will include a combination of interactive lectures, discussions, live music and networking.

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