WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Prosecutors, police and public health officials came out Wednesday to voice their opposition to the ballot proposal to legalize marijuana during a mass presentation at the Wyoming Police Department.
While cops opposing weed probably surprises no one, they say legalization will have a devastating impact on communities in Michigan.
“It literally is gonna change the landscape of Michigan and change the landscape of our communities,” said Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Kempker, who was joined by police and prosecutors from Kent and Muskegon counties, as well as community health officials.
“There’s a false idea that marijuana is safe, it is not safe. There are there are direct correlations with a variety of health issues,” said Joann Hoganson, director of community wellness at the Kent County Health Department.
“Network 180 does not support the proposed marijuana ballot initiative, and if we did, we would be turning our backs on our mission, on our community and those we serve,” said Ross Buitendorp, who oversees addiction programs at Network 180.
Much of the establishment in Michigan opposed Proposal 1, including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
Nevertheless, polling shows support for the proposal is around 56 percent, while opposition is at around 36 percent, according to a Detroit News/WDIV poll.
“We don’t believe that the polling that is out there is indicative of what the final election totals will be,” said Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Franz.
“It is clear and important that we cannot be the first Midwestern state to do this,” said Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson.
Of course, those who support recreational decriminalization see things quite differently.
Michael Tufflemire has been involved in the fight for legalized marijuana for years. He equates the legal status of marijuana with the Prohibition Era when alcohol was illegal in the U.S.
“We need to look at history and we need to not repeat it and with this, this is a plan in which we will be able to right the wrongs we’ve had in this country,” Tufflemire said. “Y’know, the criminal justice system has been built off of marijuana criminalization for a long time.”
In supporting their positions, both sides point to legalization in other states like Washington and Colorado, with each saying the experience there shows what could happen in Michigan.
“The Black Market is still thriving in the states that have legalized marijuana, to the point where innocent neighborhoods have seen an influx of drug cartels going into their neighborhoods and turning them upside down,” said Hilson.
The police and prosecutors Wednesday painted a dark picture of what could happen in Michigan if it approves decriminalization of recreational marijuana in November.
Those speaking said those states are seeing more kids using, more kids are being kicked out of school and employers unable to find workers because so many test positive for marijuana.
“This substance is something that impairs an individual’s ability to work on a daily basis,” Hilson said.
They say there has been carnage on the roads as people with people testing positive for marijuana in crashes.
“Drugged driving kills people, drugged driving injures people and that is going to increase, it already is increasing,” Franz said.
They provided documented evidence to prove their case. However, those who support legalization can provide equally compelling evidence that legalization has benefitted residents of the states where it happened.
“First, let’s look at the states that have legalized, we’re not seeing that,” said Tufflemire.
Proponents of legalization say they have looked at what happened in other states and designed the Michigan proposal to be better.
“Where we’re checking IDs where we have surveillance, where we have the state looking at us will close the black market down,” Tufflemire said. “We can refocus our law enforcement resources, which are valuable.”
In Michigan, legalization scheme is designed to create an economic equilibrium that will eliminate the black market.
“People in and out of the industry looked at what happened in Colorado (and) said ‘what can we change now that we’ve learned some things?’” Tufflemire said.
David Overholt is a medical marijuana provider who has been prosecuted for his role in the fight to legitimize medical marijuana.
“Our prosecutors and our law enforcement are just really skeptical of it all because it’s all new and I see the information they’re giving are old numbers and old evidence,” Overholt said.
He said while there were problems in the very first states where it was legalized, those issues have been addressed.
“There really was a wild, wild west atmosphere and there really wasn’t anybody following the marijuana through the system,” Overholt said.
Now, with seed to sale tracking and the legitimized banking systems, the crime has gone down.
Both sides argue over other points such as whether the increase in availability of marijuana for adults will lead to easier access for kids or whether the regulation will actually make it harder for kids to get pot.
Right now, polling shows strong support for Proposal 1, but whether that high will last through November remains to be seen.