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Opposition to marijuana ballot proposal points to medical concerns, inflated revenue estimates

The group Healthy and Productive Michigan is mobilizing against the ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana.

Earlier this month, supporters of the push to make marijuana legal in Michigan delivered more than enough signatures to tentatively qualify for a proposal on the November 2018 ballot.

The group Healthy and Productive Michigan is working to stop the measure from passing. The group's mission is to fight legalizing marijuana.

Scott Greenlee is president of Healthy and Productive Michigan, and he joined Stateside today to explain why his group believes recreational marijuana should not be made legal in Michigan.

Listen to the full conversation above, or read a partial transcript below.

CYNTHIA CANTY: Scott, what are your main arguments against having recreational marijuana in Michigan?

SCOTT GREENLEE: …Really there’s a lot of arguments for having a block on recreational use of marijuana. One of the things is medical, obviously. Most medical professionals are against this. And while there are some who support recreational marijuana that would tell you that it’s not harmful, most medical studies that are reviewed will tell you that it does cause not only short, but long-term – and can be significant – medical issues.

A lot of people have talked about the tax dollars it will generate. As folks have found out in Colorado, the tax dollars come along with a cost and, interestingly enough, in a lot of cases, tax dollar projections and revenue projections don’t come quite in where they should be.

CANTY: But we do know that there are states that are seeing their coffers fattened by it. I know Nevada generated more than $3.5 million in tax revenues in just the first month of its legalized pot. But you talk about the costs associated – like what?

GREENLEE: Well, it’s interesting when you take a look at the first month or the first few months versus long-term effects, you know, there’s going to be a significant discussion with regard to how legalized recreational marijuana is managed in our state. There will be costs that inherently come along with that, rather it’s law enforcement-type costs, rather it’s actual increased research costs, rather it’s medical costs. And I think, by and large, typically, these type of projections and these type of hype statements don’t come into where they’re projected to be. And I think Colorado has a good story about that. And our committee will be making that clear as the campaign goes on.

CANTY: What is Colorado’s story? What have they seen?

GREENLEE: Well Colorado’s had a lot of issues, you know. They just had their fifth year of legalized recreational marijuana, and most of what they had hoped would be the case is not the case. They’ve got obviously increased medical challenges that’s well-documented. They’ve got a very challenged business climate right now with companies that are trying to hire different people for different levels of jobs and have a requirement for being drug free, many of which is mandated by unions, not able to find enough people to work for them. It’s also an issue of site selection. When a company’s relocating, do they want to go to a state where recreational marijuana is allowed, or do they want to go to a state where it isn’t allowed? So there’ve been a number of challenges.

CANTY: And we have read here a lot of stories about the law enforcement challenges too, with drugged driving and that type of problem that these states – I know we’re looking at five states plus D.C. – that have legalized pot. You know, just after the petition signatures were turned in, I spoke with Josh Hovey of the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and he had this to say, talking about fundraising and the effort in Arizona that was successful in derailing the legalized pot ballot proposal in 2016:

JOSH HOVEY: What we saw in Arizona was makers of certain opiate drugs – actually the pharmaceutical manufacturers of those drugs – funded an opposition campaign to legalization. So we are expecting that as a very real possibility in 2018. And we’ll be fundraising like mad to make sure that the myths are busted and the facts are out there.

CANTY: I want to ask you too, Scott, when you think about a company that makes money from selling something like fentanyl, which is a big part of America’s opioid crisis, arguing that marijuana is too dangerous to legalize for recreational use, what do you make of that argument?

GREENLEE: You know, I don’t speak for them. I haven’t talked to them. I don’t know where they’re coming from. But I do know that marijuana is absolutely a gateway drug. And that’s been proven and documented by medical research time and time again. And I think that when we take a look at opioids and we take a look at harder drugs, marijuana is the gateway … if we really want to talk about controlling drug use and controlling opioids, we're not going to take the step of legalizing a recreational drug that is currently illegal.

CANTY: Can I ask, have you accepted any contributions from any companies that make these powerful opiate painkillers?

GREENLEE: I have not.

CANTY: Would you consider taking donations, or would you be willing to say on the record you would not accept any donations from companies that make opioids?

GREENLEE: You know, I would probably have a discussion with them. I would talk to anybody who wants to partner with the mission of the organization, as I think anyone would be wise to do. So I’m not going to give a blanket statement along those lines. I’d want to see what their case is, why they’re opposed, and make a decision along with my board at that point.

Listen to the full conversation above.

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