LANSING (WWJ) - A staunch proponent of legalized marijuana is warning local governments that have rejected pot shops that they run the risk of fostering a growth in the black market -- which puts children and others at risk.
Democratic Senator Jeff Irwin says the whole idea of legalizing marijuana is to take illegal pot off the street and put it in a regulated environment, which is safer for communities. But local governments that refuse to let legal marijuana businesses operate in their communities, he argues, will end up causing themselves trouble.
"For those communities that have said no and not ever, they're creating more of a problem in their communities," Irwin said. "The goal is to get these transactions and these sales out of the neighborhoods and into a regulated and reasonable space. The communities that continue to say no are basically pushing this activity into the neighborhoods. I think that's a mistake."
Roughly 1,300 of Michigan's 1,773 local governments have decided against allowing recreational marijuana businesses. In the long run, Irwin says the black market will end up thriving in those communities under a non-state regulated approach.
"For those communities that are saying no, what they're really doing is they're emboldening and empowering the black market in their community and they're not taking advantage of the opportunities to redirect their police resources toward fighting crime," he said.
Since December 6, 2018, it has been legal for Michigan residents and visitors to have up to 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of marijuana on them and up to 10 ounces (284 grams) at home, as well as up to 12 plants. However, stores have not yet opened as regulators continue to work on licensing.
Officials expect recreational marijuana shops and pot bars to open in Michigan in 2020; perhaps as early as February, but more likely by the summer.
Sales on legal recreational marijuana will be taxed, 10 percent on top of the six percent sales tax, with the tax dollars going to schools, roads and cities where the sales take place.