By Aaron Stoner
On Tues. Nov. 6, residents of West Michigan got out in record numbers to vote and have their voices heard. It wasn’t just candidates for public office Michiganders were voting on, but a proposal that arguably is one of the most divisive to date.
Proposal 1, the legalization of Marijuana was passed Tuesday night, gaining 57 percent of the vote.
The ballot passing makes Michigan the 10th state to legalize the use of recreational marijuana for people 21 and over, as well as demands the state to allow for a regulatory structure for licensed businesses.
While not a landslide victory, the win still sets a new and unique precedent for Grand Rapids – one that will be felt and experienced in many different ways across the city.
The Collegiate followed up with two panelists who were part of a discussion that was held at Grand Rapids Community College last month debating Proposal 1 and asked them what the ballot passing means for them, their clients and patients.
While glad the ballot passed, Paul Farage, owner of the Society of Healing Arts Institute, whose company offers alternative health and specializes in medical marijuana certification, had concerns with how the ballot is phrased and constructed.
“I’m happy that it passed, but I don’t really support the dialogue of it,” Farage said. “I think it’s too corporate and it makes it too easy for big corporations to get in on the bandwagon… These corporations never really supported marijuana from the beginning and now all they’re interested in is the money.”
Farage went on, pointing to the courts exploiting people who do smoke recreationally.
“I also think the law and the court systems have taken advantage of the fact that marijuana is a drug that a lot of people like, so it makes easy targets out of people…But still I’m happy it passed because marijuana should not be illegal,” he said.
Farage sees exciting things on the horizon for Grand Rapids, also known as “Beer City USA,” with the passing of Proposal 1.
“It’s gonna take some time, but just like we’ve seen with craft beer, we’re gonna see a lot of craft marijuana cultivators who will open up little restaurants or coffee shops, and things like that,” Farage said. “I can also see Grand Rapids becoming known for its own specialty blend.”
Farage continued, describing the real reason why he believes good things are ahead.
“Grand Rapids is a young, growing city, with a lot of colleges and young people who are inspired to make changes in the world, and because Grand Rapids is so rich in that I do see a Iot of good things coming from that,” he said. “So I would be willing to bet the city is going to embrace recreational marijuana.”
For Sandra Dettmann, a doctor specializing in the area of addiction, the passing was much more troubling.
“The people have spoken, and while we all have our right to our own opinion, and I’m very respectful of that,” Dettmann said. “However, I think that this will be disastrous for the state of Michigan. I don’t know what makes us think that we’ll be any different from the other nine states who have legalized recreational marijuana.”
Dettmann pointed to Colorado as the state with one of the most concerning statistics.
“The number of individuals involved in fatal car crashes who test positive for marijuana has doubled,” Dettmann said. “That for me is the most compelling statistic that I’ve seen related to the bad side of legalizing marijuana.”
While describing marijuana as what she believes to be a gateway drug, believing that its use only leads to further addictions, ultimately for Dettmann, her true concerns go much deeper.
“We are all looking for something to make life easier,” Dettmann said. “If you could give me a pill right now, you could tell me that, ‘It’s legal, it’s non-addictive, the medical societies say it’s perfectly safe, and it would make my life easier to live,’ well, I’d be first in line… but the problem is everything that makes life easier is either illegal, immoral, fattening or just wrong.”
Dettmann believes further testing should be done with marijuana usage as well as raised concerns about how employers are going to handle the legalization.
“We just don’t have good toxicologic testing yet to determine whether or not someone is acutely impaired from marijuana or whether or not they used it three weeks ago,” Dettman said. “So let’s just say you’re the person who only smokes once every three months and you smoked it on Thanksgiving, and then on December the 10th you get a new job offer and they drug test you. Now you’re the guy who only smokes once every few months, but are you still gonna get that job? I just don’t know how employers are gonna handle that.”
For Dettmann, revisions to the ballot are a must, and sees them happening in the not so distant future.
“I believe we’re gonna be at the table again in five to 10 years, trying to undo what we’ve done,” Dettmann said. “You know, people say we should legalize so we can get the data about safety, but I think we should get the data about safety before we legalize it.”
With the ballot now having passed and marijuana use soon to be legal, time certainly will tell.