Let’s be blunt: Legalize pot

The citizens of  Colorado and Washington voted in favor of statewide decriminalization of marijuana in November. Other states are now pushing for similar legislation — and we urge Michigan to join in.

Yes, the state has made progress by making marijuana available for medical use. But that’s not enough.

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Program, a state registry program within the Health Professions Division in the Bureau of Health Care Services at the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, has been in working for five years now.

The program allows residents to apply for a medical marijuana license. A total of 344,313 applications have been processed since 2009, with only 124,417 of them qualifying.

But the issue shouldn’t burn out there.

Michigan has experienced severe economic hardship in the past two decades. Budget cuts have been made to both education and law enforcement.

Michigan has 16 percent less police officers than it did a decade ago, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press.

Decriminalizing marijuana would lighten some of the burden placed on an already overworked police force.

Those carrying the burden of conviction need to be considered also.

Drug-related convictions often create problems later on in life when it comes to finding jobs or getting accepted to colleges. A person who is sentenced for marijuana use early in life will have a hard time “cleaning up” later.

With Michigan’s sluggish economy, who will take care of the people left uneducated and unemployed because of current marijuana laws?

Decriminalization would spare all these resources and more — but we can’t forget about the money.

The government would save $7.7 billion a year by not having to enforce the prohibition of marijuana, according to an article published by The Huffington Post, which references Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron. The article continues, saying legalization would save an additional $6 billion if marijuana was taxed such as other intoxicants.

We understand that marijuana carries  the stigma of health implications and poor choices made under the influence, but in comparison to other substances out there — some legal, some not — the implications are minor.

There are zero deaths attributed to marijuana  use annually, according to  www.DrugWarFacts.org. That’s compared to the 24,518 deaths linked to alcohol consumption and the 599,413 linked to heart disease.

Don’t misunderstand us. We are not proposing an all-out legalization. Obviously the same regulations that apply for other intoxicants should apply to marijuana use. Public buildings should remain smoke-free zones and driving under the influence should be a crime subject to stiff penalties.

But in a down economy with high rates of violent crime, incarceration and unemployment, marijuana decriminalization could be one less thing to worry about.

In our minds, this just seems like common sense.

The staff editorial is written weekly by members of The Oakland Post’s editorial board.