Seems there are several states where federalism is challenging our conventional wisdom about pot. What looks to be a new and developing trend is the development of several state laws dealing with a range of issues the U.S. Congress has failed to keep up with the times. These new laws deal with the right to possess and use marijuana, gay marriage and limits on guns and bullets.
Pure Michigan: Pot Tourism the Next Big Thing?
It could be that the so-called Blue states, where Democrats dominate the state political landscape, are passing laws which legalize personal use and possession of small amounts of marijuana, allowing gays to marry and more strictly regulating assault weapons and large capacity magazines.
Several large states mostly in the west have recently decriminalized pot (eg. California, Oregon and Colorado). Interestingly, Colorado and New York have passed tough regulations on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Gay marriage is now legal in 4 states and looks to be coming to even more of the so-called Blue states.
Could it be we are heading for two Americas? Some so-called Red states are busy with a right-wing agenda to criminalize abortion after just 6 weeks, seek to regulate immigration and create hurdles for people to vote. The later is a tactic largely used to suppress the minority vote.
Are states simply reflecting local culture or are they simply reflecting the politics of the dominate political party? Money seems to be the fuel in this new legal development on both sides.
In Colorado the new argument of legalizing pot is that is will be economically beneficial to the state’s economy. Amazingly we are about to witness Marijuana tourism in Colorado. Crafty entrepreneurs want to develop travel around the evil weed. The Oakland County (Michigan) Press reports that a start up company in Colorado wants to put together travel packages for pot users.
Interestingly the Obama Administration has said that it will enforce federal law which outlaws pot and pot sales. The Huffington Post reports that the Obama Administration faces a big decision on pot after the medical marijuana legalization across the nation. It seems that the Obama administration has reprioritized the war on marijuana and is not spending much energy bringing cases against users. However, the administration has continued in various states including California to enforce the marijuana laws in California by shutting down distribution centers for medical marijuana patients.
In Michigan, prosecutors have continued to act as if the medical marijuana statute does not exist. The Attorney General Bill Shutte has sought to find nearly every aspect of the new law illegal. Surprisingly Democrat prosecutors in larger cities have taken up the cause against pot. Those that do so are not in tune generally with their constituents in the Democratic Party.
Many Democrat Prosectuors continue to punish medical marijuana users with a special vengeance. Policies of those prosecutors who are largely located along the I-75 corridor from West Branch to Monroe really show little difference between their Republican colleagues.
The Michigan media has played little on the political implications of opposition to marijuana among younger voters who are becoming a powerful force in the Democratic Party. Further, there is a growing impatience with the wasting of financial resources on the War on Drugs which has been an obvious failure. Its success has more to do with the employment of police and criminal justice professionals than stopping drug use and possession. It cannot be seriously argued such a War has been successful if measured by continued presence of drugs like marijuana on the streets of Michigan’s major cities.
Ultimately, it will be interesting to see if mandatory drug treatment will emerge in the Blue States in lieu of criminal sanctions. In other words, California style justice would put more focus on rehabilitation on drug users and less emphasis on punishment such as large fines and jail sentences.
Lastly, an interesting but largely unreported development in Michigan is the releasing of thousands of drug addicts from Michigan prisons by the Republicans. Sssshhhhhhhh they don’t want anyone to know they are actually soft on crime. Since the prison population in the state reached its peak of 53,000 the Republicans have continued with a passion the release of prisoners, closing of prisons and lessening of the sentences of drug addicts by changing the sentencing guidelines. Michigan now holds approximately 43,000 prisoners today. A number that is still historically outrageous. in the mid-1960′s we had just 13,000 in our state prisons.
Its easy to see why Michigan was nearly bankrupt and spends more on prisons than education. When you fill up the prisons with drug offenders its cost alot of dough. The Republican legislature and the Governor have quietly been re balancing that equation. It is a comedy show indeed to see the justifications for walking back from the tough talk on crime. Michigan will continue to see a decline in prison population driven by our lack of tax revenue to support prisons in the near future. I suspect that a more nature figure for our state is somewhere in the low 30,000 range.
Be prepared to see more drug courts, alternate programs for drug addicts and alternatives to incarceration such as tethers, etc.
In the meantime, court Pure Michigan be promoting a tour to a medical marijuana resort on one of our Great Lake shorelines? How about Mackinaw Island? Sounds crazy today but if Colorado is any indication of our future we could be in for tourism packing bongs and pipes rather than bikes and snowmobiles. Who would have thought that could ever come to Pure Michigan?
Arthur A. Busch.
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