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Legalizing It

The Detroit Free Press had a fascinating story last weekend about how the medical marijuana industry in Michigan is booming, thanks to a recent decision by state voters to legalize medicinal weed. And even though questions remain about how to interpret the law, what's not murky is how the measure is fueling a level of economic stimulation:

Equipment manufacturers, retailers, doctors, lawyers and publishers are suddenly advertising, hanging up shingles, opening storefronts and building growing equipment all over the state.

I'm not suggesting that we look to weed as the next economic engine for the state -- any more than we can keep looking to car manufacturing -- but I am intrigued by the implications of this small step away from the irrationality of the so-called drug war. We're trying something new in Michigan for a change, after squandering decades in pursuit of policies that have fouled up countless lives over a plant that's probably safer than alcohol.

And early indications are that our progressive approach is paying off. Jobs are being created. So are tax revenues. Rules are being put in place to regulate the industry. Meanwhile, the black market that often contributes to the violence that plagues places like Detroit is now faced with the real possibility of losing a big chunk of its multi-billion-dollar hustle.

I'm not sure what a robust medical marijuana industry will ultimately mean for the state, although I can't imagine we'd be any worse off than California, where there's talk of how legalizing marijuana (and not just medicinal weed either) could pump billions into the sagging state economy. Without knowing just how big marijuana is here, I'd still guess that we too would be looking at the sudden influx of millions of dollars into state coffers, if not more. (I know that, as of 2006, according to some estimates, marijuana arrests cost the state more than $300 million.)

While I'd rather we adopt sane drug policies out of good sense, I guess I'm not complaining about the economic argument to be made. Whatever the case, it still beats the hell out of what's driven drug policy before -- the politics of hysteria and stupidity.

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts...

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  • 1

    I would also like to see the use of medicinal marijuana used by the state become a growth industry. I would hope that the state also puts checks and balances in place to ensure that the product being produced has a vialble tax revenue also.

    Hope fully the state will take the same approach as alcohol distribution and sales.

    would I consider the aspect of across the board legalization of marijuana as a whole, sure as long as there is a viable way to determine if a person is under the influence with out being invasive sure. But until that day comes medicinal use should be all that we see as far as wide spread acceptance.

  • 2

    Actually, many jurisdictions in California as banning marijuana dispensaries. Recent article from the LA Times:,0,7974664.story

    "Cities, counties no longer mellow about pot dispensaries
    At least 120 cities and eight counties in California have banned medical pot shops, fearing crime and profiteering. Some cite the proliferation of dispensaries in L.A."
    Los Angeles, the apogee of the uncontrolled dispensary boom, has become the scare story that has driven many other cities to act. The city attorney's office estimates that about 1,000 dispensaries have opened, most of them after a moratorium that was adopted in 2007.

    "We actually tell cities around the state to look at the failure in Los Angeles," said Paul Chabot, the founder of the Coalition for a Drug Free California. "That's why the cities are moving fast and furious across the state to adopt bans."

    Mr. Dawsey: You may want to do more research before publishing a story about a "hot" issue on thi blog, so as to not mislead people about economic issues.

    Editors: Where are you?

  • 3

    Good article Darrell!! I agree with you 100%.

  • 4

    A good think piece Darrell.
    I think that tightly regulated and significantly taxed medical marijuana facilities can be a boon to the economy. Anyone who wasn't born yesterday knows the drugs are easily accessible out there, why not let the government get their piece of the action. I also find it highly improbable that legitimate legal enterprises create more crime than back alley drug deals. The article from the LA times says that 120 towns in california have attempted to ban weed shops, but isn't really concrete about the reasons why. They say crime but I don't see any numbers. I highly doubt that a medical weed shop creates more violent crime than a liquor store and (having worked in one of the countries largest district attorneys offices) i would bet significantly less than a gun store.

    There are 478 incorporated towns in California. Of those 478 only 120 have had a legislative backlash against a very recent and controversial state policy. Compare that to the sale of booze in Texas which is totally forbidden in 74 of 254 counties and significantly restricted in many others. these polices in Texas a factual measure showing that the sale of booze is bad and we shouldn't allow it in Michigan. The answer is No, and the same holds true in the weed example. A minority of cities in California limiting the sale of weed does not mean we should disregard it as an economic opportunity here.

  • 5

    Yes. Legalize it, regulate it, and then tax the hell out of it just like we do with cigarettes and alcohol.

    The article from CA isn't convincing, what was the failure in LA? That the shops opened?...and? Furthermore, I agree with the comparison to booze in Texas. We long ago figured out prohibition was a bad idea.

    I think alcoholism and addiction are going to exist regardless of the legality of the substance someone's addicted to. Legalizing pot, bringing it out into the light, and regulating it should only help to provide a safer product in a safer manner to those who are already using it - just like alcohol already is.

    • 5.1

      Imagine if the money wasted in 'the war on drugs' had been used to fund research on brain chemistry and addiction instead. We'd probably have real and workable solutions to the problem by now. Instead we're trying to establish military bases in Columbia :(

    • 5.2


      "Columbia" = "Colombia" - the South American nation, that is

      ...I always screw up that spelling.

  • 6

    I have been a life long smoker and am now 53. I hope they legalize it before I die for christ's sake! You folks who are STILL muttering on about the harmful effects or crying about the ills of legalization ... please ... just go f*ck yourselves~! Good point in an earlier post about DECADES being wasted on the prohibiton of this stuff. We largely have Nixon and Reagan to thank for that. I wholeheartedly support the end of the prohibition and thank you Michigan for allowing medical M. I wish Florida would follow suit...

  • 7

    For the interests of grewupindetroit, I live in Los Angeles and the big news is that the sky did not fall. There are somewhere around 1,000 stores openly selling marijuana -- not to mention delivery services -- and the city still runs just fine. In the San Fernando Valley there are about a dozen within walking distance of the local Federal building and courthouse. In fact, there are three marijuana stores in one building just a block or so from the courthouse and civic center.

    Despite this, the city remains in tact and no one has reported hordes of zombies or anything like that. As one might expect with 1,000 completely unregulated businesses of any type, there are problems here and there, but most of the stores report that they are considered assets to their neighborhood. Why? Because they usually have tons of security cameras around that work to everyone's benefit.

    There have been some robberies, but convenience stores still hold all the records for numbers of robberies, so if that is an excuse to ban them, then say goodby to your local 7-11.

    How much business do they do? By my estimate, about $1-2 billion per year in Los Angeles alone. This has been going on for several years now -- and still no hordes of zombies.

    It works like this. Marijuana is a huge business. In terms of sales it is about $100 billion per year - about the same size as the beer market. Want to know how much marijuana is sold in your community? Every time you see beer on sale in your town, remember that someone, somewhere, is selling the same dollar value of marijuana.

    The difference is that we know who is selling the beer. They have to get a license, pay taxes, and follow rules like age limits on sales. An equal amount of marijuana is being sold, but the sellers are unknown, they don't have licenses, they don't pay taxes, and they don't have any incentive to follow rules like age limits.

    The real question is very simple -- An amount of marijuana will be sold in your community that is equal to the amount of beer. It doesn't matter whether you like that or not, it is happening, and it will continue to happen. All the king's horses and men won't change the size of the marijuana market.

    So the question is: How much of the marijuana market do you want to see controlled by legal, licensed business people, and how much do you want to see controlled by organized crime?

    At the moment, we have chosen organized crime to run the trade, make all the rules, and get tens of billions per year in profits. Why does anyone think that is the most sensible choice?

  • 8

    Great comment. Thank you for enlightening us on the situation in LA.

  • 9

    [...] By fdub56 This article is from someone blogging for TIME from the Detroit area.  The main focus of the [...]

  • 10

    BTW, if anyone in Michigan wants to learn more about how to get into the marijuana business, you can find a lot of interesting info at Marijuana is producing more new millionaires in California -- and probably in the US -- than any other business.

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