New law makes economic fireworks throughout state

July 30, 2012
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There was no surer sign that the world might actually be coming to an end than when I looked at my calendar and discovered that the Fourth of July would fall on a Wednesday. Mid-week holidays are always more “curse” than “blessing.” Sure, it’s a day off, but it’s not long enough to take a trip, and it’s also not long enough for your boss to extend a deadline.

Mid-week holidays have one benefit only: sleeping in — the glory of any day off. Well, except for the most recent holiday.

At 10 a.m. sharp on the Fourth of July, I was awakened by a loud boom. I mumbled, cursing the truck I thought had backfired. Then I tossed and turned before returning to sleep. About 15 minutes later, I heard the sound again, but this time it didn’t stop. I was right. The world was coming to an end.

I jumped out of bed, put my shoes on and jolted toward the door. That's when I heard the sound that would turn my anxiety into anger: children’s laughter. I walked to my window and peered outside to find a father with his three young children. He was showing them how to light fireworks. It was disturbing. He had this look in his eyes as though he were teaching them to ride a bike.

Within seconds I was on the phone with the police department complaining about the early morning fireworks display in the parking lot behind my condo. The dispatcher said he had received several complaints but — because of the new laws permitting the use of fireworks in Michigan — they weren’t sure what they could or could not do about the disturbances.

With that response, I set out to do what all legal minds are trained to do: find the answer. Soon, I understood the police department's frustration.

There is very little in the new law that clarifies how to properly use a cherry bomb. In fact, just about the only thing that is clear is that, on the day of and on the day after a holiday, folks are to be undisturbed in their display of patriotism.

Amid the flood of online opinion polls I stumbled upon while conducting my legal research were some interesting business conversations regarding the sale of fireworks in Michigan. I am almost ashamed to say I hadn’t thought to consider the economics behind it all until that moment, but it's true.

About half of the online commentators shared my annoyance. The other half, however, took a totally different stance.

Those pundits claim Michigan’s new law is just the kind of boost this state needs and is helping to grow Michigan’s economy through increased firework sales. They even described those of us who were frustrated by the new laws as proponents of outsourcing jobs from deserving Michiganders to citizens of neighboring states.

One commentator’s response really stood out. He said, "Sounds like a case of hypocrisy to me. You want the state to provide jobs and yet you won't make the sacrifices necessary to make it happen. There's no pleasing people."

Actually, there is “pleasing” me, and it normally comes at the price of sleep. But perhaps what is good for the economy is good for me.

It’s hard to tell just how much the new law has really boosted fireworks sales or Michigan’s economy as a whole. The impact, however, is visible under tents and in containers along the highways, and on the shelves in many stores.

I am a business-minded guy, so I have decided that, in the future, I will not complain. But, as to my advice to the father of those three gleeful children and anyone else who may consider disrupting my next holiday sleep-in, I say beware.

On July 5, authorities in Acme Township confirmed that personal fireworks blew off part of a man’s genitals. And in Kalamazoo, a woman was hospitalized with third-degree burns after personal fireworks exploded in her face.

Maybe what is good for the economy isn't always good for the people.

Nnamdi Anozie, who attends Howard University Law School, is a summer associate with the law firm of Varnum LLP.

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