Having lived in Michigan now for four years it's still a shock everytime I walk into a liquor store. The alcohol industry here is run with an iron fist by the state, this in my opinion is a terrible thing. It isn't simply that our leaders can't seem to run any part of our government correctly or efficiently, it also isn't that its inefficient to distribute product this way. Simply put, there are too many issues to spend the time bemoaning them rather its best to say its a failed attempt at control over an intoxicant. At this very moment you may be asking yourself “What exactly any of this has to do with cannabis at all?” The answer is that here, in Michigan, it has everything to do with cannabis or rather Marihuana, which is the official term used in all of our legislation when referring to cannabis. This harkens back to the old tax stamp days of the federal government and state regulators have ridiculously held onto the term for no other reason than simple defiance.
If Proposition 1 passes, it would enable the state to regulate cannabis sales the same way it regulates liquor sales. In Michigan, there would be a control board that oversaw the industry and its products. One doesn’t have to imagine how this could go wrong, all we have to do is look at the many examples played out in liquor stores across the state. Whether it’s not being able to purchase your favorite bourbon or simply that there is no stock in the state for specific products. The process for companies to be allowed to sell alcohol in Michigan is complex and convoluted to say the least, and it's up to the board if they permit sales at all, this allows for personal judgment of an individual that wasn't elected but rather appointed by the governor and approved by our state senate. These individuals are politicians not experts or necessarily qualified in the liquor industry, which if you ask me should be required when you expect good decisions to be made in regards to an industry.
Now that we’ve had a peek at the process and procedures for who would run and regulate the cannabis industry you can see how this might be an issue. We would have a regulatory board overseeing cannabis in the state and there is little to no guarantee or hope that they will have qualifications, appropriate experience, or knowledge of cannabis. Yet they will hold the power over the entire industry and what has been shown in the past with this type of control is a lack of real free markets or markets being able to naturally develop and grow in the state. Experience in this particular industry is very important, there is subtle nuances around every corner that help people understand the product and its many forms and uses. This isn't an unreasonable expectation in my opinion, yet when it passes and becomes law this will be the system governing the state of Michigan’s cannabis industry.
The next issue is local corruption stemming from how licenses are approved. Just like other states who have approved recreational cannabis use there is a hierarchy to licensing. Licensees need approval from the state, county, and city or township. It's almost inevitable that corruption will occur. Besides the corruption possibilities, the access for businesses to participate is in question. Many cities and counties are either opting out or limiting the number of businesses making it nearly impossible for small companies to have a chance to participate much less be successful. Limitation in this example is a heavy handed way for local governments to go against the wishes of the people and stop the growth of the sector by simply not allowing an appropriate number of cultivators and businesses to take root in the communities.
In Part One of this blog, I wanted to make sure that just under the very positive surface of the hopeful passing of Proposition 1, we look at the harsh reality of its approval. Access and personal freedom of choice to use cannabis an adult in the fine state of Michigan is a must, yet this right comes with its costs for us all. With its many flaws, Proposition 1 is still a huge win and I remain hopeful that in the future we can make the necessary changes in order to strengthen personal protections and freedoms. In Part Two of the blog on Proposition 1, I will go into the many benefits and positive aspects of the law.