MCCC staff, students weigh in on marijuana

MCCC President Kojo Quartey is opposed to the legalization of Marijuana.

The first proposal you’ll be seeing on the Nov. 6 ballot could legalize and regulate recreational marijuana in Michigan.

However, not everyone is happy about that.

Under the proposed law, adults 21 and older could possess and consume marijuana – with licensed businesses able to sell up to 2.5 ounces at a time. Only 10 ounces would be allowed in the home at any given time, with amounts 2.5 ounces or above obligated to be kept in secure, locked containers.

Public polls have shown strong support for the proposal. On the MCCC campus, the tone ranges from enthusiastic support to vehement opposition.

Professor of Math Mark Naber wastes no words in detailing why he’s for the legalization.

“It would create a revenue source through tax money,” he says. “Not to mention that currently our prisons are full of people who have been arrested for marijuana possession – disproportionately people of color.

“So it is a racist law in its application, usually benefiting privatized, for-profit prisons.”

He also notes that legalization could help people who have issues with marijuana get the help they need.

Melissa Grey, professor of Psychology, mostly agrees with Naber.“Criminalization is not an effective preventive or treatment approach for marijuana use problems,” she says in an email. “It is also understandable to have concerns about the potential for marijuana abuse or other negative consequences from its use.

“I emphasize that all communities in Michigan need and deserve to have affordable access to substance abuse treatment and mental health care.”

Students’ opinions are more mixed.

“Recreational marijuana… that’s more of a moral topic,” student Claire Bechard says. “It’s hard for the federal or state governments to judge how much is recreational or how much is overuse.”

On the other hand, she does see the overall benefits.

“I think the legalization of marijuana will lead to benefits in our community,” she says. “It obviously has helped the cities that have legalized it. It’ll help our tax reform, and hopefully that’ll lead to improvements in our city and our roads.”

Middle college student Mia Frost doesn’t feel strongly about recreational use.

“I don’t use it recreationally, though I do have friends that do it,” she says. “I’m unopinionated about it.”

Megan McCartney, another student, feels it’s more an issue of “to each their own.”

“Personally, when I was a kid I used to smoke it to get high. As an adult, I don’t,” she says. “But I think there are people out there who feel they need it for whatever reason – relaxation or whatever – and hey, this is free America.

“It was legal before, why isn’t it legal now?” she added.

McCartney is referring to the period before the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which nationally outlawed marijuana. Prior to that, states had been listing it as a poison as early as 1906, despite evidence to the contrary.

Much like Naber and Grey, McCartney feels that criminalization does little.

“Compared to some of the other crimes that are out there, marijuana is the least of our concerns here in Michigan,” she says. “We have bigger fish to fry, like sex trafficking, the opioid epidemic, and things of that nature.

“Furthermore, it’s pertinent for people like myself who’ve had significant medical issues in the past.”

McCartney explains that she has had back surgery and sustained damage to her nervous system. Medical marijuana has helped her far more than prescription opioids, the latter of which ended up becoming an addiction that doctors jumped through hoops to fix at great insurance cost.

Middle college student Olivia Gould, meanwhile, isn’t as happy with the idea of legalization.

“I’m not a fan of it for recreational use,” she says, “but I guess it’s okay if people within the age limit are doing it within the confines of the rules.”

The biggest voice of opposition on campus comes from Kojo Quartey, MCCC’s president.

“Aside from the deleterious or harmful effects of marijuana that can be harmful to individuals, let me tell you a personal story,” he says.

Quartey details a story of five friends from his soccer team who smoked weed. For them, it was a gateway drug to harder substances like cocaine.

“They began with smoking marijuana, then they laced it with other drugs like cocaine or whatever you could lace marijuana with,” he says. “Five of those individuals began to have mental issues, and then, you know where they are now?

“All five of my friends are dead because it was a gateway to other forms of drug use! That’s a personal story from me.”

Lacing marijuana with other drugs, such as cocaine, embalming fluid, or ketamine, among others, is usually done to produce specific psychoactive affects according to the American Addiction Centers.

However, their website goes on to explain that, at least in the case of cocaine, the lacing is almost always done by the user, not the seller. Recorded incidents of sellers lacing cocaine into marijuana are not common.

As for marijuana being a gateway drug, things are more interesting.

“Reassessing the marijuana gateway effect,” a scientific study by Andrew Morral, Daniel McCaffrey, and Susan Paddock, says that marijuana can be a gateway drug, but not for the reasons one would assume.

The study, funded by the RAND Corporation’s Drug Policy Research Center, gives multiple reasons why they came to the conclusion, but the most pertinent would be this.

“Something like a marijuana gateway effect probably does exist,” the article says, “if only because marijuana purchases bring users into contact with a black market that also increases access to hard drugs.”

Legalizing marijuana would certainly solve that problem.

Most other resulting problems of legalizing it could be mitigated by a clause within the proposal. Cities could choose whether or not their municipality allows marijuana-selling businesses.

The proposal also allows up to 12 marijuana plants to be grown in the home. Any marijuana sold would be subject to a 10 percent tax, plus the existing 6 percent sales tax.

The tax revenue will be split three ways – 35 percent will go to education, another 35 percent to road upkeep, and the remaining 30 percent to municipalities and counties with marijuana businesses.

An anti-marijuana rally was held Oct. 25 on the MCCC campus. It was attended by almost 40 people, including former state Sen. Randy Richardville, Monroe Mayor Bob Clark, and MCCC Board of Trustees Chairwoman Annette Dowler.

A community panel on the topic will be held in the A Building’s dining room from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 30