2018-01-04 / Views

Drugs join our ‘top ten’ list

Record-setting visitation at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore topped all the stories of 2016. Drug use did not make the list.

Two years ago the Storm of 2015 was No. 1. No mention was made of drugs.

But news coverage took a turn for the worse in 2017, as heroin use and the fallout regarding medical marijuana facilities occupied Nos. 2 and 3 on the “Top Ten” list.

Many — most? — news organizations compile such a list, usually in anonymous and somewhat hidden fashion. Our process shouldn’t be a secret. Our news staff makes suggestions, we write them down, and then vote.

We give a “ten” for a top choice, and a “one” for our tenth choice. The story with the most points win. The ones with the most votes make the list.

This year we asked pressman Jeff Lingaur, a lifelong county resident who for more than two decades has had the unique responsibility of putting his hands on front pages before any others, to offer his opinions. We reporters can get too close to our subject matter.

As it turned out, we were all pretty much in agreement.

The emergence of a new owner and hope for new life at SugarLoaf came out on top with 38 points, followed by medical marijuana with 32 points and a spike in opioid addition that coincided with the first heroin death in the county garnering 29 points.

A distant fourth was the impact of imports on the cherry industry with 22 points.

Community energy

We judge the stories based on their impact on Leelanau. Some stories have a positive impact; others are negative.

And some, perhaps the majority of stories, are more about the process of change than helping or hurting a community. One such example is the discussion on regulating seasonal rentals. Are such rentals good for the local economy? Yes. Can they tear apart the essence of neighborhoods? Yes. Finding that “sweet spot” for rentals is important for Leelanau County, and that process represents a big story.

But no one, even the users themselves, can search out a positive result of the spike in heroin overdoses and opioid use. The overdose death was far too serious to be considered a wake-up call or some type of signal.

The death became a part of all of us. Our view of ourselves changed.

To a lesser extent, the same can be said about changes in medical marijuana laws that paved the way for a request to build a regional marijuana processing plant in Solon Township. There is no shortage of marijuana today, whether for medical card holders or common users of the drug. Will growing and processing more marijuana solve community problems or advance Leelanau County? No.

But determining whether local governments should allow such a plant sure kept us busy over the summer. Getting high, we learned, is very important to many people.

Leelanau County has not changed drastically in the past year. What changed was our perception, as our conscience caught up to reality.

By now it’s no secret that we don’t like the latest entrants in Leelanau’s top ten list. People — and the communities they form — hold only a certain level of energy.

That energy — life, if you will — is too precious to waste on drugs.

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