By Aaron Stoner
Grand Rapids Community College’s Student Life Office hosted an event on Wednesday, Sept. 19 where four panelists discussed the marijuana legalization ballot proposal that students and faculty will be able to vote for on Tuesday, Nov. 6 during the midterm elections.
While not overwhelmingly well attended, the event was informative with insights that were enlightening from both sides of the aisle.
The event began with introductions from each panelist and some background into their work and how it related to the ballot.
Grand Rapids City Prosecutor Chris Becker discussed his experience with the law and how the potential legalization of marijuana could greatly affect arrests in West Michigan.
Becker pointed to case studies done in states like Colorado and Washington where marijuana is in fact legal and how arrests there have increased by 35 percent.
Becker noted how nationally in the last year or so, “drugged driving” has surpassed drunk driving and also expressed concern that if the ballot were to pass, Michigan would in fact have the highest amount of marijuana one could obtain, at 10oz.
Joslyn Monahan, a local attorney in Grand Rapids and also a volunteer at the American Civil Liberties Union spoke about racial injustice and how alarming it was that based on case studies done, a black woman found with marijuana was four times more likely to get arrested than a white woman.
Monahan went on to say how she believed the United States is “misinformed” and has a “knee jerk reaction” to marijuana. Also, if the ballot were to pass, labeling marijuana would be critical.
Monahan said “staying informed” and understanding the implications of a law change isone’s primary responsibility.
Dr. Sandra Dettmann, an addiction medicine specialist discussed how her job is “keeping people alive” and yet how difficult it is to see so many heroin and opioid addicts come into her office on a daily basis, pointing to marijuana as “the gateway drug.”
Whether it was medical or recreational, Dettmann said marijuana had “made a mockery of” her industry.
She also referenced how one’s brain doesn’t fully mature, nor is it fully developed until the age of 25, and how she believed that at the minimum, the ballot should be revised to 25 being the legal age to obtain marijuana. Dettmann saw “underage smoking” dramatically increasing if the ballot were to pass.
Dettmann concluded that she believed many more studies should be done before marijuana is legalized, and also noted that just because (marijuana) might be safer than other substances like alcohol, it does not mean that is in fact safe.
The final panelist was Paul Farage, owner of the Society of Healing Arts Institute. It was Farage that was the most adamant about the ballot passing, seeing Michigan become the 30th state to legalize the drug.
Farage spoke to prescription drugs and the numerous side effects associated with them, and how unfair it is to associate marijuana with alcohol or heroin.
For Farage, it was the government ultimately “treating us like children” and wanting to regulate something that he believed they should just “stay away from.”
Farage said the hysteria needs to “fade away,” describing marijuana as medicine and the U.S. as a country that should follow suit and legalize. “The rest of the world is just laughing at us, and it makes us look stupid,” Farage said.
Farage pointed to countries like Germany, Israel and Egypt where studies have shown how powerful marijuana is as a medicine. He concluded by encouraging people to get registered to vote regardless where one stands on the issue.
“The worst thing you can do when it comes to issues surrounding our state and country, is to not vote,” Farage said.
For those who were unable to attend the panel discussion, but would like to watch the event in its entirety, click here.
Voting in the midterm elections takes place on Nov. 6 2018. To register to vote in Michigan go to michigan.gov/vote.”