GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While Michigan is the first state in the Midwest to legalize marijuana for recreational use, it is the 10th state in the nation to vote yes on pot.
Among the first was Colorado in 2012. State and local lawmakers and law enforcement there had the daunting task of being the first to take on a massive new industry.
The former executive director of Colorado's Department of Revenue, Barbara Brohl, was tasked with regulating it. She's now a drug policy expert and strategist.
"I will tell you there, there were two things that always keep me up at night: that someone would have an adverse reaction to any kind of marijuana usage and that kids would get access to it," Brohl told 24 Hour News 8.
She said one thing Colorado leaders learned very quickly was the importance of getting all the community leaders in on the discussion educated and trained.
She stressed how critical it is to have diverse viewpoints at the table, everyone from industry leaders to school leaders and local law enforcement to homeowner associations and the medical community.
"This is going to take longer than you think to implement, this is going to cost more than you think to implement and it's going to be harder to implement," she said. "So what you really want to do is make sure you are building a good enforcement organization. And it is enforcement. It's not only regulatory compliance, it's also enforcement."
One person who knows about the long road to legalization is one of the first voices to get behind it. Brian Vicente co-authored Colorado's Amendment 64, which legalized recreational use there.
"Michigan benefits from a couple of different things," he told 24 Hour News 8. "One, you've had a robust medical marijuana law on the books for a while. Two, you have the benefits of having the other states that have come before you and Michigan can take some plays from their playbooks and see what works and what didn't."
He had advice for Michigan after seeing deadly incidents involving recreational use after it was legalized in Colorado.
"I'm a parent," he said. "I take the issue of marijuana getting into the hands of children very seriously. I think it's crucial that new states like Michigan really think long and hard about how they can label these products, how they can make sure packaging is child resistant, how they can do common sense public education around this."
That aside, Vicente called this an "exciting" time for the Mitten and expects other Midwest states to follow suit.
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