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Photo Credit: The Tele­graph

If the polling proves accurate, Michigan voters will soon approve a recre­ational mar­i­juana ballot pro­posal. Mar­i­juana support has become not only socially acceptable, but in vogue, uniting con­ser­v­a­tives, lib­erals, and lib­er­tarians; hip politi­cians and stoned cit­i­zenry. Indeed, despite federal and state bans, fans of the drug are ubiq­uitous — even pious Hillsdale College is home to quite a few con­sumers, and even more advo­cates.

Slow your roll. Ballot Pro­posal 1 isn’t about weed, it’s about com­mercial sales — widely mar­keted and dis­sem­i­nated weed. The amply-funded  mar­i­juana lobby con­vinced most Michi­ganders and Amer­icans to support recre­ational legal­ization, even though less than a quarter of American adults have used the drug in the last year. Far more cit­izens agree that med­i­cinal mar­i­juana merits legal status. But this ballot pro­posal takes it too far: It’s an all-in bet on the benef­i­cence of weed; it’s THC gummy bears in a shop on the corner, and the intro­duction of some­thing into society that will never removed. Michi­ganders should vote no.

Voting no isn’t an endorsement of full and eternal pro­hi­bition. The pri­vately-smoking adult and the med­i­cinal user have been unmo­lested for some time, and won’t go away. Society needs to inch toward a better legal rela­tionship with weed, rather than plunge fully and irre­versibly forward.

Backers of Pro­posal 1 tout the change as a victory of mod­erate sen­si­bility against the “dev­as­tation wrought by the war on drugs.” A few pot shops, the rea­soning goes, are preferable to pow­erful Mexican cartels or the destruction to urban com­mu­nities caused by over­crim­i­nal­ization. But the caprices and excesses of the war on drugs are no reason to support Pro­posal 1. Harsh sen­tencing and the com­munity problems it can create may be mended without making recre­ational weed more common. Talk of the war on drugs in this context places emphasis on the wrong victim. On Pro­posal 1, voters should pri­marily con­sider not those who wallow in prison for a bit of bud, but those whose lives would be affected by legalized recre­ational use. As for cartel revenue streams, the per­mis­sions and inter­dic­tions of our laws should not be deter­mined pri­marily by the flow of dark money. Blocking illegal profits might be a benefit of legal­ization, but the tradeoff is less abstract: Far more Amer­icans know people who’ve been harmed by weed than people killed by MS-13.

Weed sup­porters com­monly insist that “it’s not that bad.” It isn’t, they say, as addictive, destructive, or dan­gerous as the prudish naysayers might have the public believe. It’s hardly a com­pelling argument — is weed even “that good?” Pos­itive evi­dence is usually nec­essary to adjust the status quo, and the science on mar­i­juana is still embryonic. Slower leg­islative change and the preser­vation of com­munity control over the drug would allow cit­izens to examine more care­fully what they want and don’t want from mar­i­juana legal­ization. Few voters want their kids to have easier access to a full slate of recre­ational mar­i­juana products; few wish that their own parents had been recre­ating with weed while child rearing. Kids, with their growing brains and devel­oping intel­li­gence, shouldn’t partake in mind-altering drugs — nor should they be given the oppor­tunity to do so. The science must be heard and the kids must be pro­tected.

Yet the potential ben­efits and innocuous uses of mar­i­juana and its deriv­a­tives are unde­niable. Med­i­cinal mar­i­juana is already available in Michigan to cit­izens with certain con­di­tions — 11 new con­di­tions became eli­gible in July. The countless tes­ti­monies of people stricken with problems ranging from arthritis to ulcers, whose chronic pains were alle­viated by mar­i­juana, are pow­erful and per­suasive. Mar­i­juana deriv­a­tives, like the increas­ingly popular cannabinoid CBD, are also both non-intox­i­cating and appar­ently remedial or ther­a­peutic. Michi­ganders are right in looking forward to these ben­efits. But there is no reason why Michi­ganders must accept the ballot pro­posal instead of seeking more nuanced leg­is­lation. It might be rea­sonable for Michigan to legalize low-potency med­i­cinal mar­i­juana and non-intox­i­cating deriv­ative products, while com­bating problems like harsh sen­tencing in other ways. Despite mil­lennia of abuse, alco­holic drink remains legal because of its mod­erate uses. In a similar way, leg­islative action should seek to promote the mod­erate uses of mar­i­juana while fighting self­ishly indulgent, reckless, or dan­gerous uses.

By charting a dif­ferent course, Michigan could set a national standard for a mea­sured approach to mar­i­juana legal­ization. The Supreme Court has main­tained that, pur­suant to the Com­merce Clause, the federal gov­ernment has the power to reg­ulate local mar­i­juana usage. But if the states demon­strated a more cau­tious approach, perhaps Con­gress could be con­vinced to remove marijuana’s Schedule I clas­si­fi­cation and allow it interact benef­i­cally with society.

Joshua Pradko is a senior studying American Studies.