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OPINION: What Michigan’s marijuana move means for the Midwest

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Opinion writer Madeline Kramer claims Michigan’s move to legalize recreational marijuana will provide a model for other Midwestern states to follow.

Michiganders voted “Yes” on Proposal 1 during this year’s election, making recreational marijuana legal for adults age 21 years or older. The proposal passed by a wide margin, making it clear that Michigan is ready to take their current medical marijuana laws a step further. Michigan legalized marijuana for medical use in 2008, and the state plans to apply many of its current regulations to recreational marijuana.

Michigan’s legalization of recreational marijuana is an important win for the Midwest. Michigan became the first state in the Midwest to make such a large step in changing the narrative surrounding marijuana. Ohio attempted to legalize both recreational and medicinal marijuana in 2015, but the proposal failed due to concerns surrounding monopolies.

Michigan has a sound medical marijuana program and seems to have high hopes that the recreational marijuana legalization will go just as smoothly. If Michigan’s new recreational marijuana laws are well received, the idea quite possibly could move down to Ohio.

Michigan became the 10th state to legalize recreational marijuana, joining Colorado, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, Vermont, Washington, and New Hampshire. However, Michigan is different from these states in two big ways — tax and amount legal to possess.

The new law makes Michigan one of the most progressive states regarding recreational marijuana legalization.

Michigan is adding a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sales in addition to the current 6% sales tax. This is one of the lowest taxes on marijuana. Recreational marijuana in Washington carries a 37 percent sales tax, and Colorado’s marijuana has a 15 percent sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax.

Proposal 1 also stated that adults would be able to own up to 12 personal plants. This is also more than most other states. Californians can own up to 6 personal plants and Nevadans can own up to 6 plants per person or up to 12 plants per residence.

This is extremely important to surrounding states like Ohio. Ohio legalized marijuana for medical purposes in September 2016. However, Ohio has hit many roadblocks in getting the medical marijuana program running.

Ohio law requires all medical marijuana be pre-tested before hitting dispensaries, which is slowing down the process, as none of the five testing labs are open. A testing lab in Nelsonville and another in Streetsboro are tentatively set to open in mid-December. Still, Ohio has gotten a slow start to implementing its medical marijuana program.

It is important to remember that some areas of Ohio are making progressive strides regarding marijuana. The Athens Cannabis Ordinance, or TACO to locals, passed in November 2017. This did not legalize marijuana, but decriminalizes it, effectively eliminating the penalty fees in place for up to 200 grams of marijuana or 10 grams of hash.

Michigan legalizing recreational marijuana is an important and progressive step for the Midwest. It shows to the rest of the country that an area largely thought of as conservative-leaning is making progressive changes.

Ohioans may see how Michigan structures their recreational marijuana laws in the next coming months and become more interested in the possibility. If the program goes well, the idea and possibility can spread to surrounding states. This puts the Midwest on the map for progressive decisions and changes regarding marijuana.

While Ohio may not have legalized recreational marijuana, our neighbors to the north are becoming an example for the whole Midwest region.

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