April 7, 2020

Three Reasons to Vote

Spectator
By Stephen Tuttle | Oct. 13, 2018

Things were going so well. The candidates for federal and statewide office were playing nice, and even their television ads were mostly positive, often clunky, but issue-oriented and at least marginally informative.
 
That has now changed, and the ugliness we loathe but have come to expect is upon us. If we believe all the negative rubbish, all the candidates are bums: This one is a left-wing radical, and that one is a right-wing radical. This one is going to take away something we want, but that one is going to ruin something else.
 
(The campaign for Senator Debbie Stabenow has been an exception. Her Republican opponent, John James, has been mostly invisible in northern Michigan, her lead in the polls has been large and consistent, and even the third-party independent professional mudslingers haven't bothered to show up.)
 
Since most of the candidate races have become offensive, let's take a look at the ballot proposals. There are three that made it to the ballot through the initiative process.
 
Proposal 1
A “yes” vote legalizes the recreational use of marijuana — with a caveat.
 
People 21 and older could legally possess up to 10 ounces and grow up to 12 plants. Any amount greater than 2.5 ounces would have to be kept in a locked container. Sales would be licensed by the state, and a 10 percent excise tax would be assessed. The catch is that municipalities could still ban marijuana sales by ordinance. Revenues to the state will be used for marijuana research and education, schools, and other state programs.
 
There are downsides. We know it can be very harmful to young people with developing bodies and brains. It can lower the IQ of a young person and interfere with neuro-development. It makes for some very bad driving at any age, spurring slower reaction times and impaired depth perception. We'll need to develop better testing to determine if people are driving while impaired by THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana.
 
The experience in other states that have legalized has been increases in use and traffic incidents, including accidents, now decreasing slightly. 
 
But our marijuana laws have been absurd since it was classified — along with heroin, opium and cocaine — as a Schedule 1 drug. There are now more than 30,000 opioid overdose deaths a year in the U.S. There has been one suspected marijuana overdose death in history: an infant who ingested a large quantity. 
 
There is scant, anecdotal evidence that it is addictive, and virtually none that it leads to other drugs. It is certainly less lethal than alcohol or nicotine, both of which are legal. There is science now indicating marijuana can be useful in treating post traumatic shock disorder (PTSD), nerve pain, glaucoma, and as an appetite enhancer and nausea reliever.
 
It also allows police to focus on the drugs, both legal and illegal, that are killing people. 
 
The real story here is money. It will mean hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue to the state and potentially millions for cities. If not this year, it will be legalized eventually. Michigan would become the 10thstate to legalize marijuana.
 
Proposal 2
A “yes” vote approves a constitutional amendment establishing an independent, citizen redistricting committee. It would consist of 13 members — four Democrats, four Republicans, and five independent/unaffiliated voters — chosen at random from public applicants. Current and former partisan-elected or public officials, lobbyists, party officials, or their employees need not apply; they are ineligible.
 
The best argument in favor of this is that anything is better than allowing whichever party happens to be in control of the legislature to gerrymander the state to their heart's content.
 
(Interesting that the state Chamber of Commerce, ever protective of their influence when a partisan legislature redistricted, went to court to have this removed from the ballot. They were rejected by the State Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court.)
 
Proposal 3
A “yes” vote approves a multi-faceted constitutional amendment designed to make voting easier. It allows straight party-line voting, registers someone to vote automatically when they obtain a driver's license (unless they specifically decline), allows people to register to vote up to 15 days before the election, allows any registered voter to obtain an absentee ballot simply by requesting one, and requires election results be audited. 
 
The only part of this that is slightly controversial is the straight party-line voting. The Republican legislature discovered most straight ticket voting was occurring in Democrat-vote rich southeastern Michigan, so they changed the rules. Straight party voting by pulling a single lever is not the smartest way to vote, but it's not the government's business to decide that for us. 
 
Legal marijuana, a new redistricting system, and easier voting — at least three reasons to get out and vote next month.   

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