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Amarett Jans

In Michigan — where, in November, voters will both elect a new governor and decide whether to legalize adult-use cannabis — governor candidates are sharply divided along party lines over the issue of cannabis legalization, according to a Michigan Radio report.

There are four Republicans, three Democrats, and two Libertarians currently in the gubernatorial race; the Republicans have all come out against the legalization initiative, while the Democrat and Libertarian candidates support it.

Republicans

In a meeting between six of the gubernatorial candidates and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, Lt. Governor Brian Calley focused on cannabis, the substance, instead of prohibition, the civil rights nightmare. “Having another mind-altering substance out there, with the endorsement of the government, I think it a bad thing,” he said.

State Senator Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) argued that legalization would result in an increased amount of drug test failures and, in turn, a direct drop in employment rates. “When [the] number of job openings goes up, the number of people on government assistance is also going to go up because they can’t find a job because they can’t pass a drug test,” Colbeck said.

Dr. Jim Hines, a Saginaw-based gynecologist, told journalists that he is in favor of medical, but not adult-use, cannabis. “I don’t support recreational marijuana,” he said. However, “When it goes to the ballot, if the voters of the state were to approve it, then I would support it.”

Attorney General Bill Schuette has a history of opposing cannabis law reforms. A spokesperson for the attorney general’s campaign said, “Bill does not personally support legalizing recreational marijuana but as governor he will respect the will of the voters.”

In fact, all GOP candidates, though they might not support the initiative themselves, said they would honor the voters’ wishes if they decide to legalize.

Democrats

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, a former state senator, told reporters that she will vote in favor of legalization and expects that a majority of voters will do the same. Therefore, she is already considering the initiative’s implementation. “So it stays out of the hands of kids. To ensure the dollars actually go where they’re supposed to go…into our infrastructure and our schools,” she said.

Another Democratic candidate, businessman Shri Thanedar, said he was “fully supportive” of the initiative and called legalization a business opportunity. “I would make sure that big corporations from out-of-state do not come and take advantage of this new law,” he said.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed called the legalization question an issue of civil rights. “If you are black in this country, you are 3.3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite no higher likelihood of use,” said El-Sayed.

Candidates Thanedar and El-Sayed each told reporters that, if they won, they would use the power of the governor’s office to pardon non-violent drug offenders in prison and, if voters indeed decide to legalize, they would expunge the criminal cannabis records of individuals who were affected by prohibition.

Libertarians

Libertarian candidate Bill Gelineau said he was in favor because legalization would allow law enforcement to focus resources on other crimes.

John Tatar, another Libertarian candidate, reportedly supports the full decriminalization of cannabis.

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