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Mitch Albom is getting reefer madness

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A column in the Sunday Free Press last week by Mitch Albom displayed an ominous peek into his thinking about marijuana that is actually troubling coming from an award-winning journalist. The fact that the Freep even ran those words is even more troubling.

The headline on the piece declared: "Mitch Albom: To be blunt, Michigan's marijuana law too generous." In the column, Albom bemoaned that somehow Michigan voters had been hoodwinked because taxes set by the new marijuana legalization law were too low.

It was on the front of the editorial section above the fold — a prominent placement for the piece, given the fact that the Freep had also urged voters to vote yes on Prop. 1 to legalize marijuana in Michigan. Before the election there was no discussion from Albom or Kathleen Gray, the Freep beat reporter on marijuana legalization, or from anyone else at the newspaper that the marijuana taxes were set too low. There was some debate about how much tax money overall would be raised, but no significant discussion that the rates are too low.

Aside from the tax declaration, most of what Albom had to say were warmed-over arguments first served up by anti-pot Healthy and Productive Michigan. But the point that really incensed me was a passage in the column that read, "And you can cite whatever report you want, long-term use of THC, especially in the higher concentrations that are now available, will have effects on your health and your mental state."

This is a mealymouthed bit of scary rhetoric that implies something, but stops short of the mark. Still, it's scary coming from a newspaper that is supposed to be dealing in facts. The implication is that "you can cite whatever report you want ... and I will not believe it." Albom implies that even when scientific facts are brought to the table that he will not believe them. How Trumpian he is in this post-truth era. Albom says that even if you provide him with documented facts he will not believe you.

That is scary.

In the same sentence, Albom parrots the HPM line about these "higher concentrations" to traffic in the same fear tactics. He then finishes the fiendish sentence with the assertion that this killer marijuana is going to have some undefined "effects on your health and mental state."

Hey Mitch, what are these "effects" that you are warning us about? Are they good, bad, or neutral? Everything you do has effects on your health and mental state. Doing yoga has "effects" on your health and mental state. Taking a walk has "effects" on your health and mental state.

What exactly is Albom trying to say here? Does he cite any "reports" with which to make his claims? No, he's already told us he doesn't believe in "reports." And he didn't actually make any claims. He only says there will be some hazy, ghosts-in-the-bushes "effects."

Here's the thing: Almost all of the scientific "reports" show that the health effects of marijuana are mostly good. It might help to check out the facts. Start with Granny Storm Crow's list (grannystormcrowslist.wordpress.com). After you've read a few reports maybe you will start to believe them.

As far as mental effects are concerned, I think the opinions of millions of marijuana users planet-wide who use it despite prohibition are pertinent. The overall conclusion is that it makes you feel good.

Then, Albom comes up with that lame assertion about taxes, saying, "it sure looks like we rushed into these rates."

What rush? The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol made no secret of what is in the law. It was always there and explicitly stated. The coalition did all their business openly and in the public eye over a couple of years. There was a previous effort to get on the ballot in 2016. There was no rush about anything here, tax rates, or anything else. Don't make false claims. The implication by association is that we rushed into this whole marijuana thing too fast.

The only people who feel like we rushed into this are the people who don't want to see it happen at all. Legalizing marijuana ever is too fast for them. For the rest of us it's about time. The open struggle to legalize marijuana in Michigan kicked off in about 1967 when The Michigan Daily student newspaper called for the state government to legalize marijuana. That was 51 years ago. Since then there have been more efforts to get legalization on the ballot, successful legalization of medical marijuana, numerous municipalities voting for decriminalization bills, literally millions of Michigan voters' signatures on various pro-marijuana petitions, and now recreational legalization.

So we rushed into low tax rates? Stop trying to scare people about a rush to marijuana, Mitch. Albom's jaded view seems to be that if we are going to give in and let these people smoke their weed it is best to extract a lot of money from them. Albom may be channeling Leona Helmsley, who infamously said, "Only the little people pay taxes."

Albom might add that marijuana users need to pay really high taxes.

Then he takes us on a little trip down the marijuana memory lane for his generation. "Now, it's true, people my age have had a long strange trip with marijuana," he writes.

He never mentions his own "trip" with marijuana. Did he ever try it? Did he try it and not like it? Did he not inhale, like Bill Clinton? Did he try it and like it, but give it up later when he grew up? Or did the folks using marijuana avoid hanging out with Albom?

Albom never says a thing about his own use or not. He throws out a litany of things associated with marijuana that people his age associate with pot — basement parties, "gateway drug," Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg. Throughout this recitation of cultural markers, he never relates any association with them. There's no good or bad, just a stream of things passing by.

Indeed, Mitch Albom seems to have come down with a bit of reefer fever. Let's hope it doesn't descend into full madness. The whole thing is an ingenious bit of fence-sitting on the issue while trying to sound incensed about something through implication and innuendo. In the end, all he could come up with was, "Oh my God, they're not taxing it enough."

Really? Albom could have led that parade six months ago, but waited until after the election. Did he suddenly wake up on Nov. 7 and realize the taxes on marijuana were too low? Gray, the Freep reporter, has done great work covering the marijuana beat in Lansing this past year. After she did the tough reporting, Albom stepped in at the last moment to grandstand with the big headline. And this time he stepped in with his post-truth, reefer fever musings.

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