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PBS and NPR travel host visits Grand Rapids campaigning for legalizing recreational use marijuana

Rick Steves photo

Rick Steves, the travel host whose programs air on WGVU-FM and WGVU Public Television is in Michigan speaking as a proponent of legalizing recreational marijuana in the state. Steves made his case in Grand Rapids at the Peter Martin Wege Theatre.

WGVU spoke with Steves about the issue voters will decide in November.

“My governor, Jay Inslee, was not in favor of this law when he was elected in 2012. Today, he is thankful for the law. He’s arresting 10,000 fewer people a year.”

Steves is a Washington state resident and a board member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“And we’ve taken a thriving black market industry and turned it into a highly regulated, legal and taxed industry and we had a billion dollars in retail sales last year in Washington state and that generated over $300 million of tax revenue.”

Nine states have legalized adult use recreational marijuana. I asked Steves about access to minors and drugged driving concerns.

“Mature adult use has not spiked way up. I suppose it’s crept up a little bit, but it’s not that there’s no people smoking pot right now in Michigan. Teen use has definitely not gone up. DUIs have not gone up. Crime has not gone up. Now, every year when states come out and have new laws for legalizing marijuana they learn from the laws of states before.”

“Certainly, there are stats out there that would back up every one of his arguments,” said Scott Greenlee with Healthy and Productive Michigan opposing Michigan’s Proposal 1, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative.

“There’s also stats that show in states like Colorado, which has had recreational marijuana longer than any other state, teen use has doubled and what’s worse than that is drugged driving deaths, deaths, that involve marijuana on the highway have doubled and there’s no arguing those particular stats. I mean, those are facts put out by the Colorado officials, the attorney general’s office, the highway patrol, etc. So, that’s a big issue.”

Greenlee argues the tax revenue generated, currently projected at $100 million dollars annually, is not enough to offset costs for oversight, prevention and rehabilitation.

Patrick Center, WGVU News.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.