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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

July 29, 2019

The Detroit News. July 24, 2019

Clear petty marijuana crime records

Recreational marijuana use has been legal in Michigan since December of last year, and medical use has been legal since 2017. The past should be reconciled with the present. The records of people who are still suffering undue punishment for minor marijuana offenses should be expunged.

Sena Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, introduced Senate Bill 416 to the Michigan Legislature last week to automatically wipe away the criminal records of 235,000 citizens who have been convicted of possession or use of marijuana.

These aren’t the complex cases, Irwin says. “That number represents people with minor infractions such as use or possession; it’s not talking about more serious crimes, like intent to redistribute or manufacture.”

For the most part, these are average citizens who have already paid their debt to society, but who, because of their conviction, continue to miss out on employment and education opportunities for activity that would be legal today.

The proposed pardon would come at no cost to the record holders. This is important because ponying up for a lawyer to pursue an expungement case is expensive. Citing a University of Michigan study, Irwin says only 6 percent of those eligible to have their record set aside actually seek that relief.

“I don’t want local courts to have to deal with 235,000 pieces of paper asking for relief from these petty offenses,” Irwin says. “Marijuana possession? Are you kidding? Let’s just en masse in one efficient process take care of this.”

Removing records that have been made irrelevant by marijuana legalization would make 250,000 citizens eligible for a host of opportunities for which they would otherwise be overlooked, cleaning the slate for many who deserve a fresh start.

Remember, these aren’t drug dealers we are talking about.

They are average people who got caught with a substance that is now legal. It makes no sense that they would continue to pay a price today for past indiscretions that no longer rise to a criminal offense.

Today, the only way your smoking habits are your boss’s business is if you make it so. Start showing up to work late and smelling skunky, well, that’s your own problem.

There’s nothing a court can do to save you from being a lazy bum. But it can — and should — remove irrelevant records and give a clean slate to those who need one.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). July 24, 2019

MAPS helping out with mental health services

Life has always been complicated, but that doesn’t mean it has to be handled the same way it’s always been handled.

When it comes to mental health resources, much more attention is needed, especially in rural areas such as the Upper Peninsula.

According to a recent article in the online Bridge Magazine, it was reported that student suicide is the second leading cause of death in Michigan for those ages 15 to 24, a nearly 50 percent jump in less than a decade, state health data show.

In another Bridge article, it was reported a 2018 public health survey found the U.P. had just eight psychiatrists, and two child psychiatrists, to serve 300,000 people.

Psychiatry requires a medical degree, so this differs, obviously, from merely counseling people. However, counseling can be the first step in keeping a mental health issue from getting to a crisis point.

So, we are happy to see that Marquette Senior High School will be the site, at least until Sept. 30, 2020, of a mental health clinic funded through the Michigan Child and Adolescent Health Center program. The Marquette County Health Department will be in charge of the billing and administrative tasks.

Through this program, students can see a licensed master social worker, who will help them work through their problems in a confidential manner.

The program already is implemented at Ishpeming and Gwinn high schools.

Adolescence is a time of transition, and although people struggle with issues at all ages, it’s particularly important to help teens deal with things when they’re at that vulnerable age.

As has been stated many times in recent years, mental illness should not be considered a stigma, just as a broken leg or a blood infection isn’t considered something to be ashamed of.

And someone with a broken leg or blood infection probably needs medical attention as soon as possible, so the same holds true with mental health.

Guidance counselors are an important component of student life, but a professional providing counseling of a different and sometimes more advanced sort is an important part as well.

We are glad to see Marquette Area Public Schools and the Marquette County Health Department take the issue of mental health seriously, and hope all area schools find a way to help students in need.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. July 25, 2019

We need to talk about sexting

“Consequences” is a buzzword in many parenting manuals of our modern age. Letting a child experience the natural consequences of say, forgetting their gym shoes by sitting out of gym rather than the parent bringing the shoes to school, is a good lesson in responsibility, independence and anticipating consequences of their actions.

The idea is to reinforce this early on with gym shoes and lunches — in a safe environment when the consequences are pretty tame.

Resounding parenting duh! notwithstanding — understanding consequences is a challenge for kids. It is a challenge in today’s age of overprotective parenting; it was a challenge long before.

Science explains that the part of our brains that handle anticipating consequences is the brain’s most recent innovation, and that it doesn’t fully mature until the ripe old age of 25 years old for women, and 30 years old for men.

Pair this with another recent innovation — the smartphone — and you have turbo-charged access to bad decisions that can follow a person around for a long, long time.

Sync this with Michigan’s 1931 Child Sexually Abusive Material Law — and all the ways teens and children can “distribute child sexually abusive material” i.e. nude selfies.

Even when consensual between teens, taking the picture could be a 20-year prison sentence. Saving the picture could be a 4-year prison sentence. Sending it could net seven years. Conviction on any of these felonies comes with mandatory registration as a sex offender.

Remember when you thought 30 years old was OLD?

The laws can age a teen before their time.

We’re fortunate in that many in the education, enforcement and judicial communities that deal with the issue take the circumstances into context.

But they are constantly tiptoeing a tightrope between protecting the kids from predators, and protecting them from their own worst impulses.

Legislators in Colorado, Washington and Virginia revamped laws to take the juvenile sexting trend into account.

We’d like to see Michigan address this on a state level as well, carving out a place for these specially teen-related issues while maintaining “teeth” in the child porn laws that protect our kids.

But that’s just the beginning of the conversation. Sexting consequences need to be a part of every sex education curriculum, starting in middle school.

Parents need to have their own talks with their kids, as they know their kids best and they also control their children’s ability to take and share these pictures. Parental responsibility is paramount: If your kid is too young for “the talk,” they’re too young for a phone.

Photos shared are forever photos. Children may think that photos on platforms like Snapchat evaporate. Not true. Email isn’t secure; social media is not secure. Nothing is secure. Youthful belief that a girlfriend or boyfriend would never share nude images with anyone else is proven wrong each day.

We hear story after story where images get out and are shared, breaking hearts and potentially having long-term legal consequences.

Anticipating these consequences is a lesson learned over time, and shaped by experience. Kids think they’re immortal; they’re not, but their photos could be.

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