Legal pot: Municipalities opting out could create mecca for private, tax-free transactions

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On leaders that follow…

Livingston County was a part of the marvelous mitten’s green wave this November, as Michigan voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana for recreational use. The traditionally conservative, habitually Republican county rejected the long-debunked and decades-old “reefer madness” style propaganda, voting yes for legal pot.

You would never know it from the reaction of local leadership, many of whom shared the same ballot with the voter-inspired initiative this November. Wasting no time, before the election had even been certified, we are sifting through multiple “opt out” announcements in the local press. Most are at least honest about the intent of their tight grasp on exclusion, while others are citing the desire to “wait and see” what everyone else is doing.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, really.

Livingston County leaders are often overly cautious, and they hesitate to try new things. While caution is a valuable virtue, too much of it just leaves us behind. Our elected officials — in cities, townships and villages — are deciding not to decide. Opting out is easier. They will let other leaders in other municipalities set a precedent and follow their lead, maybe.

On one hand, our leadership will pull out all the stops to block the will of their own constituents, and for that we will lose a useful financial opportunity afforded to participating counties. On the other hand, this county will be a mecca for private grows and, likely, personal transactions of tax-free product between friends and acquaintances without the benefit of the oversight, licensing, or tax revenue we all just voted for. Some voters will be disappointed, others really won’t care. Either way, the only one losing is the county coffers. Our local governments are the losers at a time when they are finding it difficult to balance budgets without cutting services.

Livingston County will gain nothing (besides jail cell space and court time) as we just “hard pass” on the opportunity for extra revenue and a semblance of control of the local cannabis market. Some leaders lead, others choose to follow, and some want to keep a foot in 1956.

On a positive note, voters within each municipality can collect signatures on petitions (again) and get the issue on their ballot for the next general election (again), forcing the hand of their own local leadership.

About Kristina Drake 1 Article
Kristina Drake was a 2018 candidate for the Livingston County Board of Commissioners. She has a degree in corrections and is currently finishing up her bachelor's degree at Eastern Michigan University in Criminal Justice. Drake has lived in Hamburg Township for over 20 years, and raised two kids who attended the Pinckney Community Schools.

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