ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor.
The recent evidence of anti-marijuana decisions in northeast Allegan County should remind citizens of the ancient fable of the boy in the Netherlands holding back the approaching water by putting his finger in the dike.
Despite so much talk about other factors in Leighton Township’s decision to opt out crafting a dispensary ordinance and Watson’s apparent change of heart, all of this issue comes down to one word — fear.
Two public meetings over the last two months in Watson Township have produced very vocal opinions against crafting and adopting an ordinance to permit medical marijuana dispensaries. A lot of the talk has included the “not in my back yard” NIMBY argument and persistent, but untrue notions that marijuana is a scourge, a gateway drug that must be regulated strictly or prohibited.
The irony here is that by permitting medical marijuana dispensaries the local township would be getting better regulation of the “Wild Wild West” aspects of the current medical marijuana state law. Because the State Legislature in 2009, despite 63% Michigan voter approval, didn’t want pot to be legal at all, lawmakers took great pains to make the growing, processing and selling of the medical products to patients cumbersome enough to discourage it.
There’s an old saying that if you make something easy for people to do, they’ll do it. Conversely, if you make it difficult by throwing up a lot of roadblocks, they are discouraged.
The current state law allows only licensed growers to sell to licensed patients, limiting the number of plants and clients. This has created conditions that could be unsafe for caregivers and patients alike when they exchange money for product.
Furthermore, government and law enforcement officials have difficulty in regulating and enforcing these rules. The not-so-pot friendly legislature in the fall of 2016 passed a dispensary law, with Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature, to provide more oversight and safety.
Some municipalities have embraced the new rules and I haven’t heard much about them experiencing problems.
So Watson may cave to public pressure and finally back away from crafting an ordinance. Leighton already has shut it down. I don’t see this making headway anywhere in these parts.
What makes this a potential headache is the likelihood in November of passage of a state-wide referendum to legalize recreational use of marijuana and regulate it just like alcohol, which has been proven to be far more dangerous. How many people have been killed by marijuana? With the possible exception of use while driving, none.
So what are municipalities in northwest Allegan County going to do if the ballot proposal is approved? They’ve already taken a pass on regulating it on a local level.
Conservative estimates have 57% of Michigan voters in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. At least one poll puts that figure at 71%. And now 30 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia legalize pot for medical use and eight states have gone as far as recreational use permission. It’s a phenomenon that is growing, not shrinking.
Whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, County Prosecuting Attorney Roberts Kengis or the Leighton Township Board don’t want it matters not. The people do and they are way ahead of politicians and law enforcement on this one.
This is where the fable about the Dutch boy’s finger in the dike comes in. Those in Watson Township who believe their emotional fear-driven fears have been dealt with to their liking are sorely mistaken.
So let’s make plans to regulate it effectively.