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Sin taxes a sure plan for eventual disaster

The times, they are changing.

Remember when Blue Laws were in effect across the U.S.? Actually, most employees here at the newspaper have no idea what I’m referencing, but Blue Laws — another name for Sunday Laws — restricted or banned the sale of certain items on Sundays.

Specifically, the laws mostly impacted Sunday sales of alcohol.

Today, most states have removed the laws from their books and Sunday sales are normal.

I mention Blue Laws this morning as I was thinking about new laws and regulations in Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reported this week that, with recreational marijuana sales in the state now legal, in the first week of regulated sales (Dec. 1 to 8), sales amounted to $1.6 million. Of that, $162,900 was raised from the 10% state excise tax and $107,514 from the 6% sales tax. Those numbers reflect sales at just three stores which, during that period, were the only ones licensed by the state to sale marijuana. Since then, more stores have opened as applications are being processed and approved for licensing.

Honestly, did you really ever anticipate the day when marijuana would be sold for recreational purposes at the corner store?

Would you have bet on the chances of that?

Which leads to my next observation regarding state politics these days: the legalization of sports and online betting. With the adoption of legislation Wednesday, the Associated Press reported, Michigan became the 20th state in the nation to authorize sports wagers and the fifth to allow casino-style games to be played online.

As with the marijuana issue, the main selling feature proponents stressed about the need for passage of the gambling laws was the tax revenue that the betting would generate.

“Providing a legal and safe and regulated option that actually brings in money for the state is a good thing,” state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, said. “I trust people to make decisions with their own lives.”

Not everyone agrees that the newfound “sin” money in the form of taxes is what Michigan residents need right now.

“The purpose of legalized and organized gambling is the industrialized mass extraction of people’s money,” said state Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan. “The addiction of money is not just symptomatic to the gambling addict, but it’s symptomatic to the state itself. The state of Michigan is addicted to people’s money.”

I know McBroom, and have a lot of respect for the dairy farmer from the Upper Peninsula. And it is a thought-provoking point he raises about the state’s desire for the tax money.

It makes me wonder where this all is going to end.

This month, it is marijuana and gambling.

Next month, will it be legalized prostitution?

I can’t help but think we as a society are skating on some pretty thin ice about now.

The way I see it, relying on this type of tax money to, say, fill potholes or increase school funding is, I’m betting (pun intended), a sure plan for eventual disaster.

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or bspeer@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.