Prosecutor, veteran, doctor and business owner debate Prop 1

Posted at 11:41 PM, Oct 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-29 00:52:12-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- One of the most hotly contested things voters will be deciding on November 6 is whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana in the state of Michigan with Proposal 1.

Proposal 1 would legalize the possession, use and cultivation of marijuana by people ages 21 and older. It would also legalize the commercial sale of marijuana by licensed retailers. It would become legal for people of age to also have marijuana-infused edibles and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption. People of age would be limited to keeping 10 ounces at a residence and require over 2.5 ounces to be kept in a locked container. Sales of marijuana and edibles would be subject to a 10 percent tax. The proposal would also change certain violations to civil infractions, rather than crimes.

Four experts sat down with FOX 17 to discuss what they believe is at stake with Proposal 1. Dr. Sandy Dettmann is an addiction specialist who is against Proposal 1. Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker is also against it. Business owner Tami VandenBerg and combat veteran Michael Tuffelmire are both board members of MI Legalize, a group which advocates for Proposal 1.

“In my mind, it’s ludicrous to add a substance with harmful health effects, especially to the developing brain," says Dettmann.

VandenBerg disagrees.

“The most dangerous thing about marijuana is the criminality of it," she says.

Tuffelmire says not legalizing recreational marijuana creates more danger to the public, who currently can only purchase recreational marijuana through the black market. He compares this to how Americans purchased alcohol during Prohibition.

“We can put this all to an end just like we did in the 30’s. We can do it now," Tuffelmire says. “It wasn’t like the day that Prohibition ended, everything stopped. It takes a little bit of time. Minor problems need to be ironed out.”

Becker says passing Proposal 1 would lead to more arrests.

“From a law enforcement’s perspective, going from drug use to criminal use, that’s when we see a lot of tie-in when we’re dealing with people committing crimes," says Becker, "is that they’ve got some sort of substance abuse history.”

However, Becker says that the passing of Proposal 1 would not change how the average police officer in Kent County does their job.

"We’re not out there enforcing marijuana laws," says Becker. "That’s the biggest misnomer as well. Yes, there’s probably in terms of the numbers going back from the state police. Yes, we get marijuana offenses but they’re generally combined with something else.”

VandenBerg pushed back on this argument from Becker. Watch the video above for the full exchange.

Meanwhile, Dettmann's biggest issue with the proposal is that it would make young people vulnerable to dangerous substances.

“I would feel a little bit differently about this law if it started at age 25," says Dettmann.

She argues that the brain isn't fully developed until 25 years of age, which is when she says a person can make better decisions.

“This is not about treating a medical disease," she says. "This is about the legal system coming in saying it’s okay to get high.”

It's not just marijuana with which Dettmann has a problem. She says she wishes alcohol were illegal, too.

“I think what we’re looking for is something to make it easier to live life on life’s terms without using potentially addictive or addictive substances," says Dettmann. "I mean truth be told, we all want something to make life easier but in reality, we have to learn to live life on life’s terms without using mind-altering substances.”

For Tuffelmire, he's seen "life's terms" ruin the lives of many of his fellow veterans suffering from PTSD. He says he knows several veterans who have served with him and later committed suicide.

“I am not gonna say that I have not ever heard someone who’s taken marijuana and said it’s changed their life because I know a lot of veterans who feel that this has gotten them back on the right track," he says.

Tuffelmire says the taxes from marijuana and edibles would help fund a major study between combat veterans and marijuana.

"You could save a lot of lives," says Tuffelmire.

For more of the discussion, watch the video above.

MI Legalize is hosting a debate on Proposal 1 at the Wealthy Theatre on Monday, October 29 at 5:45 p.m. There will be six panelists including Becker, VandenBerg and Tuffelmire.