Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

March 9, 2014

Fred Goldenberg: Putting the 'pot' in 'potholes' and other ideas

TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan legislators are increasingly discussing the prospects of legalizing marijuana in the state for recreational purposes.

Some of those calling for legalization are Republican legislators interested in raising tax revenues for the state. Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, started a campaign called “pot for potholes.”

He believes the legalization and taxing of marijuana would raise more than $5 million a year to repair the state’s deteriorating roads. Callton was quoted by one media outlet saying “I’ve heard some of the most conservative people say, ‘Let’s legalize marijuana and tax the heck out of it.” But in actuality, there is a far larger economic reason for the decriminalization of marijuana than taxes.

There are thousands of people incarcerated in Michigan for marijuana charges.

It costs us taxpayers $30,989 a year to keep an individual, whose only crime is non-violent possession of marijuana, in prison for a year.

The taxpayer is paying to house, feed, clothe and provide those inmates with health and dental care. This doesn’t even include the cost of investigation, prosecution and ancillary legal costs to the state.

I talked about these issues with local defense attorney Jeffrey Slocombe.

He rightly points out that in many jurisdictions simple possession is not aggressively prosecuted and most convictions are for distribution. In 2013, Ferndale, Lansing and Jackson joined Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint and Ypsilanti in passing local ordinances decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan in 2008 with 63 percent of the vote.

Attorney General Bill Schuette has for all intents and purposes ignored the will of the people and continued to place countless stumbling blocks in front of those seeking relief from pain by using marijuana.

In November of 2013, a state Senate panel approved legislation that would allow medical marijuana to be sold at pharmacies.

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