Don’t play games with pot voters

As expected, Michigan voters overwhelming approved legalizing marijuana for recreational use. We still think it was a bad idea, but that does not matter anymore because the voters have spoken.

Statewide, Proposal 1 was approved 55 percent to 45 percent. The ratio was similar in St. Clair County. In Port Huron, 62 percent of voters said yes. In Sanilac County, though, 56 percent of voters said no to legalizing marijuana.
State officials say the possession and use of marijuana by adults could be legal by early December. Expect months, if not years, of bureaucratic and political foot-dragging in Lansing before it is possible to actually buy any at retail, though.

Lame-duck Gov. Rick Snyder, in a statement, said it shouldn’t be that way.

“Now that the decisions have been made, it’s time to move forward,” he said. “State officials should begin their work in earnest to implement the new state laws and ensure the proper regulatory frameworks are in place.”

It has been a decade since Michigan voters approved marijuana for medical use. Yet there are almost no dispensaries where patients can acquire the drug. And that is despite the state finally erecting a framework — more than a year ago — to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and other facilities.

State regulators say that their experience with that boondoggle means that licensing recreational marijuana businesses will go more smoothly. Perhaps appropriately, this is an editorial about marijuana.

It doesn’t help that the initiative process in Michigan allows the Legislature to get involved. Lawmakers could have passed their own bills to legalize pot but didn’t have the political courage. Those who fear the worst expect the Legislature to make it easier for local governments to negate the will of voters. Instead of requiring cities and townships to say yes or no to marijuana, as they do now with medical facilities, Lansing could make hiding from a decision the same as saying no.

Local officials need to check vote totals. Their constituents, all adults, chose to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Ignoring voters, a lot of candidates learned, is not the path to re-election.

Officials who fear the negative effects of legalizing marijuana should want quick and effective implementation of state controls and regulations. Red tape, foot-dragging and unreasonably high excise taxes can only reinforce and encourage lawlessness and promote the growth and survival of the marijuana black market.

The recreational use of marijuana is the law in Michigan now. State and local officials must make certain it happens with the least risk to all of us.

— TIMES HERALD (PORT HURON)