By social relations and policy junior Shaurya Pandya
On Aug. 2, voters right next door to MSU in Meridian Township will be faced with a proposal that would impose a complete ban on recreational cannabis businesses within the township. It is an important vote, but it’s a simple decision.
It’s clear from the experience of the nearly 200 other cities in Michigan that allow cannabis businesses to operate that regulation works better than prohibition. That is why I am urging all voters in the township to oppose the ban. Let me tell you why.
Meridian voters have already spoken on this issue and do not support a ban. Recall that in 2018, 60% of Meridian Township residents supported a statewide proposal to allow for recreational cannabis.
In Michigan alone, cannabis is a $2 billion industry that employs more than 30,000 people. At least 168 Michigan municipalities have carefully and intentionally permitted regulated cannabis in their respective communities without any negative side effects.
If this ban was passed, Meridian Township would be telling its citizens they either need to leave the community to purchase their products or, much worse, seek out illegal sources. Peer-reviewed research shows that limited access to legal cannabis is one of the most common reasons people continue to use the black market – where there is no safety testing and IDs are not checked.
The harm reduction strategy is to vote “NO” on the ban and instead allow a limited number of stores.
Meridian residents can see from their neighbors in East Lansing that strict regulations can ensure these businesses are located only in appropriate commercial areas. Residents who fear an uncontrolled spread of cannabis stores on every street corner should also note that caps can be placed on the number of businesses allowed.
In East Lansing, a Special Use Permit, or SUP, must be obtained to sell recreational cannabis. An application must be filled out, including a $5,000 fee – which helps pay for the city’s regulatory costs. Then, the East Lansing Planning Commission considers the application, holding a public hearing to make a recommendation to East Lansing City Council. Following another public hearing, Council will approve or reject the application.
There’s no reason Meridian Township cannot follow this model. The Meridian Township board would review any cannabis retailer proposals and there is a reviewal process to accept or reject proposals. This is how there is a regulation in Meridian.
By allowing a few stores, the community would have the opportunity to share in the excise tax revenue collected by the state. Last year, Michigan municipalities received over $56,000 for each business in their community. This is money for our township to support many different public services.
The decision is clear. If you’re a family, a couple, a student or anyone else in Meridian, I urge you to reject this ban because it is the right decision for all in our township to have regulation and safety.
I encourage you to learn more about this initiative at https://noonmeridianprop1.org and join me in voting “NO” on Meridian Township Proposal 1.
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