Weed is legal now, but high number of Arab Americans reject Proposal 1


By The Yemeni American News

Michigan has become the first state in the Midwest to legalize weed. The decision came directly via the voters, not through politicians. Proposal 1, a referendum on marijuana passed comfortably on Nov. 6.
However, making weed legal was not high on the priorities of voters in the mostly Arab American neighborhoods of east Dearborn.
For example, in the mostly Yemeni Southend neighborhood, less than 20 percent of the votes were in favor of the proposal. In the two precincts at Salina Elementary, 752 Southenders voted against the legalization of weed, and only 183 people voted for it.
Although Arab Americans overwhelmingly sided with liberal, Democratic candidates, they took a conservative position on weed. About two thirds of the voters in east Dearborn rejected Prop1.
In the single precinct a Becker Elementary, which serves as a polling station to a mostly Arab neighborhood off of Warren Avenue, 405 people said “no”, compared to 188 “yes” ballots.
At the same precinct 564 votes went to Democratic candidate for governor Gretchen Whitmer and 55 for Republican Bill Schuette.
Whitmer had backed prop 1; Schuette opposed it but said he would honor the results of the vote.
“I believe Marijuana should not be legalized due to its negative effects, especially on the youth. It’s very disturbing to learn that 1/3 of the community voted yes,” said Mahdi Ali, president of the American Moslem Society in the Southend.
Ali added that the success of Proposal 1 puts an additional pressure on imams and religious institutions to “educate community members on how marijuana is harmful and damaging”.

Opponents of the proposal say legalization makes the drug more accessible, especially to young people who would harm their health by abusing it.
They also argue that decriminalizing the drug will lead to more traffic accidents because of people driving under the influence.
Supporters of legalization say that marijuana is already being widely used, but regulating the industry would bring tax revenues to the state.
Another argument for legalization is the amount of energy police officers waste on weed offenders – time that may now be spent to combat serious crime. For example, 9 percent of police arrests in Michigan in 2015 were weed-related.
Furthermore, some advocates for racial justice say legalization would be a legal relief for people of color who are disproportionately targeted for marijuana offenses.
“The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says.
“Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce marijuana use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities.”

Dearborn dispensaries?
The proposal has legalized the use and possession of weed for people 21 and over. However, municipalities still have local control in approving weed vendors.
Some people in the Arab community are already calling on Dearborn to reject weed businesses.
“Dearborn should not allow dispensaries,” Mohammed Sohoubah, a resident and owner of pharmacies, said. He explained that the legal age of 21 will not stop children from consuming the drug. “Kids will buy it from others who will buy it for them, just like alcohol.”
He added that weed businesses would affect the entire city.
“Residential property values will start to decline over the next decade once dispensaries are open in Dearborn,” he said.
Maher Saleh, a business owner, said the legalization will create a headache for families and law enforcement agents.
“What kind of example are we going to set for our kids when they ask what marijuana is,” he said.

What is still illegal
Police officials have warned that simply because marijuana is now legal, driving high is still not tolerated. Michigan State Police will continue roadside drug testing, including for marijuana.
“Motorists under the influence of drugs pose a risk to themselves and others on the road,” Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP said in a statement. “With drugged driving on the rise, law enforcement officers need an effective tool to assist in making these determinations during a traffic stop.”
And similarly to alcohol, marijuana cannot be consumed in public.
“First of all, you can’t just walk down the street smoking weed,” Romulus Police Sgt. Labrit Jackson was quoted as saying by the News Herald.
And while Michigan has made weed legal, the federal government as well as the neighboring states of Ohio and Indiana still consider it banned substance.
So even marijuana that is bought legally in Michigan can get you in trouble in Ohio.
Better not leave weed in your car if you’re going to visit friends in Toledo!