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Money should alleviate bads of cannabis

The News’ recent series on the effects of Northeast Michigan’s burgeoning marijuana industry shows two things for certain:

One, marijuana is here to stay. Already, the region hosts nine marijuana businesses, including five stores, and more are expected in the future.

Two, that fact brings both positives and negatives to the region.

The positives range from the benefits marijuana users see in the drug, including relief from pain and anxiety, to economic benefits as people get jobs at the cannabis outfits and others visit Northeast Michigan to shop at the stores, to hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue going to local governments.

The negatives include an increase in youth marijuana use as they gain easier access to the drug, a rise in marijuana addiction, an increase in marijuana-related illnesses, and residents worried about the effects the businesses will have on their neighborhoods, including everything from increased traffic (and some reported reckless driving) to worries about decreased property values.

We call on Northeast Michigan leaders throughout the region to make sure the positives of the marijuana industry help to alleviate the negatives the industry brings to our region.

Northeast Michigan governments this year received a combined $338,720 in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana. They’re expected to receive significantly more in future years as more stores open and all of the stores sell more cannabis and cannabis products.

That’s not counting any hard-to-account-for benefits local governments will see through property taxes on the stores and increased visitors to the community.

That money shouldn’t just get tucked into governments’ general funds and used on everyday business.

That money should be used to invest in programs that combat the downsides of marijuana. It should go toward addiction programs, toward education programs to make sure marijuana users know how to use responsibly (including not driving while high), toward police programs to combat drugged driving and youth use (the drug remains illegal for anyone younger than 21).

Whether you like it or not, marijuana is here to stay in Northeast Michigan, and, with the right planning, our leaders can make sure we rake in all the benefits while alleviating any downsides.

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