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Recreational pot drive

By Katie Deska
News staff
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03/31/2016 - Approaching the eighth anniversary of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), overwhelmingly approved by Michigan voters, the current political battle over cannabis centers not so much on whether or not the state should legalize recreational marijuana, but rather, it poses the question of when legalization will take effect, and who will control and profit from the million dollar industry.

Fighting to appear on Michigan's November 2016 ballot are three initiatives, each outlining a distinctly different approach to legalized recreational marijuana. At press time, only MILegalize and Abrogate Prohibition Michigan, two of the three groups that come from opposing schools of thought, were reaching out for support from the public and actively circulating petitions.

The capital of the U.S., and four states – Oregon, Alaska, Washington, and Colorado – have already legalized marijuana for recreational use. Additionally, multiple cities around the country have passed ordinances decriminalizing the substance, effectively diluting the penalty of possession from a misdemeanor or felony, to a civil infraction.

Ann Arbor was the first city in Michigan to decriminalize it in 1972. More than 30 years later, following the 2008 passage of the MMMA, an additional 17 municipalities followed suit, each crafting their own ordinance that defines the amount of marijuana to be in the bracket of civil infraction. Seven cities within Oakland County did so, namely, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Berkley, Ferndale, Keego Harbor, Hazel Park, and Oak Park. Other areas in Michigan with decriminalization ordinances on the books include Detroit, Lansing, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Flint.

Despite growing acceptance of studies illustrating the effects of marijuana as a medical treatment, and increasing social approval of recreational use, the federal government maintains its classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, a category defined by the drug enforcement agency as "the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence." Heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote are listed next to cannabis. Comparatively, the second most dangerous category, Schedule II, includes cocaine, methamphetamine, Adderall, Ritalin, and Vicodin.

"I certainly think it (marijuana) ought to be rescheduled," said former Attorney General Eric Holder in an interview with P.B.S., recorded last September and released in February. "You know, we treat marijuana in the same way that we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate. So at a minimum, I think congress needs to do that. Then, I think we need to look at what happens in Colorado and what happens in Washington," referring to two states that have profited immensely from legalized marijuana.

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