Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer gives her introduction next to gubernatorial candidate Abdul Al-Sayed, left, at a marijuana legalization forum with the candidates for governor at Sidetrack Bar & Grill in Ypsilanti on Tuesday.(Photo: Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)Buy Photo
Ypsilanti — Four leading Democrats and one little-known Republican running for Michigan governor are throwing their support behind marijuana legalization ahead of a potential statewide proposal they could share the ballot with in 2018.
“We’ve seen other states do it wrong. In Michigan, we’ve got a chance to do it right,” said former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday night in a candidate forum hosted by MI Legalize.
The activist-led group is a member of and top donor to the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a ballot committee preparing to submit petition signatures for a proposal that would regulate and tax commercial marijuana production and retail sales in Michigan.
Abdul El-Sayed, a medical doctor and former Detroit Health Department director, said he has seen first-hand the efficacy of medical marijuana to treat seizures and believes full legalization would open the door to more rigorous research on its effects.
“This has become a civil rights issue,” El-Sayed said, pointing to statistics showing criminal enforcement has had a disproportionate impact on low-income communities and African-Americans. “We have an opportunity here in Michigan to rethink marijuana.”
Evan Space, a long-shot Republican from Lansing and military veteran, said he wants to provide better access to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Shri Thanedar, an Ann Arbor Democrat and scientist, said science supports legalization. Bill Cobbs, a former Detroit police officer, said prohibition has been a failure.
“Most cops don’t