Other states provide model as Michiganders consider implications of legalized marijuana

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As a yoga instructor interested in holistic treatments, DeWitt resident Suzanne Zalinksi said she was supportive of legalizing marijuana for medical reasons.

“If people are really in pain, then they shouldn’t have any issue getting a medical card,” she said.

But she’s worried the decision by Michigan voters on Nov. 6 to legalize marijuana use for recreational purposes may lead to an increase in use among minors. The proposal started to go into effect Dec. 6, although use by minors remains illegal.

Increased underage use of marijuana was a concern regularly raised by opponents of the ballot proposal, but advocates for legalization say that hasn’t happened in other places.

Research by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that high school use of marijuana in Michigan was only 34 percent, lower than the 39 percent the country had as a whole.

In Washington, which legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012, the Washington State Institute of Public Policy found that marijuana use by high schoolers declined since marijuana was legalized.

 

Washington State Institute For Public Policy

Information on underage marijuana use from a report by the Washington Institute of Public Policy

 

Dr. Robert Townsend, whose Denali Healthcare practice provides medical certifications for patients, said he expects to see more older recreational users over teenagers and young adults.

“I’ve introduced so many different people to cannabis and most of them were well into their 30s and 40s.” Townsend said. “Not many young people come to see me.”

He also said that it might take a while before younger residents take part in recreational use.

“It took us a long time to get people comfortable with the use of medical marijuana,” he said. “There was a stigma for so long that you were a pothead if you used cannabis even once.”

Use of marijuana by age, from the Monitoring the Future Project by the University of Michigan

 

Research conducted in 2017 by the Monitoring the Future Project at the University of Michigan showed that about 79 percent of 55-year-olds had used marijuana in their lives, while less than 50 percent of people 21 to 22-years-old had ever used it in the life.

Brandon June, a student from Central Michigan University, said he had never used weed and “probably never will” and that him being young was not a determining factor.

“I like the fact that it’s legal,” June said. “Every one young and old should have the choice to use it, but that doesn’t mean we] will run out to buy a dime bag because we can.”

Alyssa Avery, a 28-year-old mother from Lansing disagrees. She said better  accessibility certainly won’t “make people who are already smoking it, less likely to do it.”

“I’m all for everyone being to do what they want,” she said. “But if you’re young and weed just became easier to get, chances are you’re gonna give it a try. It’s just like alcohol.”