What does the passage of Prop 1 mean for small communities?

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It’s been five weeks since Michigan votes decided to legalize recreational marijuana, but Williamston City Manager Corey Schmidt said he does not expect a huge change for community residents.

“To the extent that is, if it’s occurring in public, there could be some ramifications there,” said Schmidt. “But as of right now, when I talked to our police chiefs and whatnot, we just don’t expect a huge change.”

With the passing of Proposal 1, all communities who are against it still have the opportunity to opt-out of dispensaries within their city limits. Communities had this ability to opt-out when medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan. The Williamston City Council has been debating this issue for months.

At the City Council meeting on Oct. 22, the last meeting before the midterm election, marijuana was a topic in the discussion. City attorney Timothy Perrone is the person directing the city council on the legality of Proposal 1.

Councilman John Bisard asked if there could be zoning ordinances in place to prohibit this [Proposal 1] in Williamston. Attorney Perrone commented there could be a petition brought forward if someone doesn’t agree with the ordinances.

However, there was a city council meeting on Nov. 26 which was when the city council voted to either do nothing about the passing of Proposal 1 or make a decision.

“So our city council has been discussing this for about the past three meetings and as a result of that, just last night, they did pass an ordinance to opt out of, marijuana-based establishments,” Schmidt said. “And so they, there was a vote last night and passed 6 to 0.”

“We recognize that in Colorado, despite the promises, over five years later more than 70 percent of municipalities have opted out of having the product sold in their communities,” said Scott Greenlee, the president of Healthy and Productive Michigan. “We project that number, based on the amount of inquiries we already had within 48 hours after the election, will be even larger in Michigan.”

The opt-out option, determined by city councils or city leaders, means that no dispensaries can be within city limits. Williamston has already opted out of having a dispensary in the city limits, which is what the city council voted with medical marijuana a few years ago. With the state-wide legalization, however, Michigan and smaller communities as a whole should not expect a huge change based on Colorado’s results and smaller communities

With the results of the midterm election, Michigan is moving slowly into uncharted marijuana territory with only a few states to guide it forward. It is assumed that smaller communities, like Williamston, should see no change because that is how it went with Colorado and Washington.

As for the state as a whole, could it change the view on crimes in communities, specifically small ones which did not have many arrests for marijuana to begin with?

According to an MLive article, there were roughly 20,000 marijuana-related arrests.

For Ingham County, the largest city by population is Lansing with 110,018 residents, and it had 104 related arrests in 2017. Williamston, the smallest population in Ingham County with 3,895 residents, there were zero marijuana-related arrests in 2017.

“The majority of those [arrests] involve simple possession charges and that’s really first and foremost why we, believe in this so strongly,” said Nick Zettel, campaign manager of MILegalize. “No one should go to jail for it.”

Within educational institutions, the rules will still stay the same for now. At the collegiate level, MSU still prohibits all marijuana-related activities and alcohol under state and federal law. This might change since the legal age in Proposal 1 is 21 like alcohol. So will this have a big effect on high schools like in small communities like Williamston or on larger college campuses?

Citing the MSU trustee policy manual: “Michigan State University’s compliance with provisions of the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989 applying to students is achieved through a comprehensive alcohol and other drug prevention program which includes policy enforcement, education programs and treatment services.”

However, MSU has a chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy run by Ebert. This group was in hiatus for a few years and was recently started up and running again in October. SSDP partnered a little bit with the Proposal 1 lobbying groups and worked on some policy changes.

“We work on policy changes, our production through drug education and awareness as well as diversity and inclusion,” said Kat Ebert, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “So our big thing, one of our main goals for 2018 and… we’re still working on, is federal marijuana prohibition and to work on sentencing reform and expending criminal records related to marijuana.”

Student groups are important because they can help establish new rules or update the old ones. SSDP helped write some of the legislation for Proposal 1. This could later affect the current rules on MSU’s campus which could bleed into smaller communities.

As for the smaller community of Williamston, the high school will maintain the rules that are currently in the school district handbook of 2018-2019. High school students tend to be under the age of 21, so they legally will be unable to purchase substances. However, they still have the ability to pay older students for juuls.

Citing the school district handbook: “Automatic suspension: The use of drugs, alcohol…, smoking, use of explosive devices of any kind, and malicious destruction will result in infinite suspension.”

“My reading of the impact in other states is that use among adolescents has increased significantly once marijuana was legalized for recreational use,” said Adam Spina, Williamston school district superintendent. “I believe it is conclusive that the use of the drug has negative effects on adolescent development. I also believe it is a public safety issue.”

This is not a new proposition though. Before the presidential election in 2016, lobbyist groups were attempting to get the legalization of marijuana on the ballot. However, not all the signatures needed to make it a formal proposal were made by the deadline.

“So folks all kind of regrouped and redid the ballot language, raised the funds to help collect signatures because, for most valid initiatives, it’s a mix of paid people who go out and collect signatures and then that mix of volunteers and so it was, I’d say probably 70 percent of the 260,000 signatures that we collected,” said Josh Hovey, communications director of Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

This setback helped the grassroots of the campaign grow for this year’s midterm election, which became known as Proposal 1. Within this proposal, it allows the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and older.

Proposal 1 also allows individuals to own up to 12 plants, a 10-ounce limit kept in residences, requires amounts over 2.5 ounces to be in secured containers, the state has the ability to creating licensing procedures and allows a 10% sales tax. This tax will be used toward education, roads and bridge maintenance. The sales tax will be put on microbusinesses and sales at retailers.

The lobbyist group, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, is the one who wrote the proposal and submitted it with all of the signatures. The group also worked in tandem with the MILegalize lobbying group.

Both groups stated that the rate the proposal passed by was what the had anticipated. According to the polls prior to the election, they predicted that rate would be between 50 percent and 60 percent. The final tally was roughly 56 percent.

“I was cautiously optimistic and also a very scared that there was the possibility that it wouldn’t fare as well,” Zettel said. “And that was only because our opposition has had so much money and just spend so much on opposition spending and negative ads.”

Despite the official passing of Proposal 1, dispensaries are still under high scrutiny. According to the President of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at MSU, Kat Ebert, several dispensaries in Ingham County, especially the Lansing area have been shut down. The owner of a Lansing seed dispensary declined to comment because of the potential consequences.

“They shut down a bunch of them down, they want to start regulating more,” Ebert said. “When this new law with proposal 1 in place now anyone is allowed over 21 is allowed to grow plants, so I could see where maybe they wouldn’t get as much business, but just because people are allowed to do that doesn’t mean that everyone will.”

Healthy and Productive Michigan was one of the few opposing lobbying groups. They could not be reached for comment. However, Greenlee posted an op-ed to their website titled “Marijuana Results Not What We Hoped For: Battle Not Over.”

“My team and I have encountered too many stories of people that found marijuana use to be a stepping stone to harder drugs,” Greenlee said. “We recognize it has value in the medical arena, but we believe the results in states like Colorado have demonstrated recreational use is a bad idea and Michigan citizens should be concerned.”

Within the article, it explains that local municipalities still have the ability to not have marijuana within its borders and the group will still continue to fight for this issue. At the end of the op-ed, Greenlee said that they, being yes voters, may have won but the group will be working to keep Michigan as Healthy and Productive as possible.

Proposal 1 sent Michigan into uncharted territory with only a few states to guide the future of marijuana and its policies. It took about two years to fully legalize and accept the new legislation in Colorado. This will most likely be the time frame for Michigan as well according to Ebert and a few dispensaries in the area.

“Yet anyone without a med card will not be able to go into a dispensary and purchase probably for at least two years,” Ebert said. “That’s just kind of how it goes and I thought that was going to change and then I was talking to them about it and they were like, no, you need to know that’s not going to change.”

Williamston residents without Med cards will still have to wait to go in and purchase but in smaller communities, there should not be a huge change in the atmosphere and environment.

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