I have been a big fan of Michigan marijuana activists since I first started blogging back in January 2010. Michigan is home to some of the hardest working, most compassionate activists on the planet, and they inspire me constantly. A great example of that is an open letter that Anqunette Jamison wrote to Pastor Winans and the Michigan faith community after a less than desirable interaction on the Mildred Gaddis Show. Anqunette Jamison recently retired from her job as a newscaster to fight with MILegalize to end prohibition in Michigan. Below is an open letter that Mrs. Jamison posted on her Facebook page. I found it inspiring and so I posted it below. Hat tip to you Anqunette Jamison!:
An Open Letter to Pastor Winans and the Faith Community
I had the opportunity to speak with you, Pastor Winans, on the Mildred Gaddis Show and I’m quite unsettled with how it ended. My decision to become an advocate for the full legalization of cannabis for adults is not in spite of the children, it is because of them. We’re asking for people of faith to come together and talk about what it means for all of us when the use of cannabis becomes legal. Here is the challenge ahead, as we see it.
The War on Drugs costs our country $10 billion dollars a year, has not cut drug use and has led to a mass incarceration epidemic that is being called The New Jim Crow. More than 600,000 people are arrested for possession every year. That’s 10 times more than 1980 and far more than arrests for murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault combined. Nearly 80% of people in federal prison and almost 60% of people in state prison for drug offenses are black or Latino, even though people of all races use cannabis at similar rates.
The fears that more teenagers will use cannabis if it’s legal appear to be unfounded. The 2015 Colorado Health Kids Survey shows teenage cannabis use has declined since 2009 and the trend continued through legalization. The Washington State Institute of Public Policy found no uptick in teenage use. The CDC reports that teens say it is now harder to get cannabis. The CDC found the largest increase in use was among those over the age of 55. Medicare spending has dropped in states where medical or recreational use of cannabis is permitted. Heroin and opioid addiction rates have also fallen.
In Washington, violent crime fell 10% after full legalization and the murder rate fell 13%. The crime rate in Colorado remained unchanged. Colorado’s cannabis industry has added almost 27,000 new jobs and the state has collected $135 million in fees and taxes, with $35 million earmarked for school construction. Washington generated more than $210 million in taxes in the last year and a half of legalization.
We at MiLegalize want these benefits for the people of Michigan, too. We have a chance here to draft legislation to protect the interests of our communities. This is a civil rights issue, a moral obligation and an economic opportunity. Still, it is rife with serious concerns. We have faith we can figure out a better way forward and we welcome the opportunity to address the challenges that lie ahead, together.