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Thursday, August 30, 2012

VGIP Vote Green Initiative Project by Ben Horner

VGIP Vote Green Initiative Project

         Now is when we really need to get motivated to make ourselves heard by the powers that be in Michigan State and local government. After the midlevel court decision was issued on People vs. McQueen there has been some serious set backs in maintaining a unified front to fight for our rights to use and enjoy cannabis.

         I hope all will make a strong showing this September 19th and make a strong shoving in front of the State Capital building. If we make a strong turnout then Lansing will be more inclined to respect our strength. Now is the time to get folks excited about voting this November and question those that are running about Medical Marijuana and cannabis law reform.

         In November, there will be ballot proposals to amend local laws in Detroit, Ypsilanti Flint, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo to reduce or remove penalties of basic possession of Marijuana for adults. All of these local efforts can help move us towards total legalization, and an end to the government’s war on marijuana. In the marijuana only victim is a peace loving cannabis consumer and his family.

         Many patients and caregivers fear that “secret meetings” held in Lansing will screw them out of their rights protected under the MMMA. During our investigations we where able to confirm that there had in fact been a series of meetings with Michigan Senator Jones with Tim Beck and Jamie Lowell, formerly of MACC (Michigan Association of Compassion Centers). They explained the political strategy that was adopted and pointed to MPP (Marijuana Policy Project in Washington DC) as a major partner in the endeavor.

Interview with Tim Beck:
Question: At what point did you target Senator Jones and why?
Beck: When the Republican Party took complete control of state government in January 2010, I knew the community was in serious danger of having the MMMA destroyed. I recognized immediately when the Senator was appointed to chair the Judiciary Committee, he was going to be a big player in any cannabis legislation coming down the pike. I felt it imperative a bridge to the man must be built.
With the help of a prominent Lansing lobbyist, I was able to secure a meeting with Senator Jones, to try to scope out things and hopefully create a positive working relationship with the man.
At this meeting, I found Senator Jones to be a very plain speaking, honest man, whom you would get a straight answer from, even though the answer may not be what you want to hear. In that same sense, the Chairman respected me and told me his door was open. He described me as the most "sensible" medical cannabis activist he ever met. As the months went by, I made a special point to further nurture this relationship, as legislative issues evolved.

Question: What ground has been gained by these negotiations?
Beck: I have been able to obtain special inside information as to future political moves and from time to time, Senator Jones asks my opinion about various cannabis issues. Sometimes he follows my advice and other times he does not. I get the impression Senator Jones is comfortable with me, because he knows my personal discretion and sense of fair play precludes any potential embarrassment for him.

Question: What should Michiganders prepare for and how does this relate to cannabis law reform in general?
Beck: It is inevitable legislative change is coming by the end of this year. I believe the Walsh bills are going to pass. The doctor patient relationship per medical cannabis recommendations will be more defined and at least some law enforcement agencies will have access to the registry. There are plusses and minuses to both these and other changes contained in the bills. That said that they prefer to view these changes as a cup half full, rather then half empty.
Action by the Legislature will serve to further legitimize our law in the eyes of the 85% of the voting population, which does not use cannabis. If all goes well, there is a good chance some form of legal dispensary system will be created in 2013. However, if Romney is elected President in November, all bets are off as to the future of the dispensary industry.

Interview with Jamie Lowell:
Question: There seems to be some confusion regarding recent lobbying for medical marijuana. Some folks fear that we might be putting patients and caregivers in a position of compromise. Can you shed some light on this?

Lowell: I am not aware of any lobbying efforts, from within the community, that would compromise patient and caregiver rights and protections. Preserving the caregiver system and not changing the MMMA, is something that the entire community tends to agree with.
         There are the well-known Walsh Bills, that contain restrictive and prohibitive language, but no medical marijuana organization in Michigan, endorsed them as they were voted out of the House. Patient advocacy organizations, such as Cannabis Patients United, significantly contributed to getting changes to language in the bills that worked to lessen their potential impact. The original version of the bills would have gutted the entire Act. CPU and others, successfully, worked to stop the most damaging aspects of the bills in their original form.

Question: What is the deal with the dispensary bill and who is behind it?
Lowell: The dispensary bill or "Provisioning Centers Act" is a local option bill that works in conjunction with the existing caregiver system created by the MMMA. A municipality may choose or not choose to embrace the zoning for commercial medical marijuana activity, but the bill cannot affect the rights and protections for patients and caregivers to participate in medical marijuana activity in their own residences.
         5580 is an additional Act that does not affect any rights or protections in the MMMA, but helps to functionally carry out the intention of, those who may benefit medicinally from cannabis, as recommended by a licensed physician. 5580 only requires a simple majority to pass, as opposed to the super-majority required to change the MMMA.

Question: What do you want patients and caregivers to be focused on in the future?
Lowell: The State Supreme Court has, fortunately, proven to be the judicial safety net, we all hoped for, but were unsure of until, the Justices favorably ruled in the first two medical marijuana cases before them, people v King and Kolanek, 7-0 in both cases. Since then, the activist judges in the Court of Appeals have rendered favorable rulings in medical marijuana cases, as well.
         These rulings have helped to create a more comfortable environment for businesses and individuals to be more involved with medical marijuana activity. There is a resurgence of participation as a result, and as the Supreme Court, particularly concerning the McQueen case, reverses more COA rulings the activity will certainly swell. As a result, the urgency for 5580 is not as great, as is stopping the erosion of existing rights and protections. The focus should be on the legislature, at this point, to pass an improved version of 5580, in order to offer reasonable direction to local government and law enforcement as more and more participation emerges and is encouraged by the courts recognition of the plain language of the Act and the intentions of the voters who made it the law.
For now, in my opinion, it is most important for community members involved with
Political activism, to focus on stopping the restrictive Walsh bills 4851 and 4834, headed to the Senate floor, then back to the House. Concerned patients, caregivers and other supportive individuals can directly engage their Senator and district House Representative, by appointment in Lansing or, as many of them do, when they are conducting local meetings for constituents at restaurants and coffee houses.
         The bills were not acceptable leaving the House floor, the first time. Now, with the proposed amendments, they would result in less people being able to participate in the program, while allowing more access to the program's private registry by law enforcement, judges and prosecutors.

Interview with Dan Riffle from MPP:

Question: What was MPP's role in crafting the Provisioning Centers Bill, i.e. the Local Option Bill?
Riffle: We worked directly with Jamie Lowell and Robin Schneider from MACC. We helped write the earliest forms of the bill at which time it was called the “Local Option bill.” We did this because after the MMMA was passed some folks where unable to find caregivers and this would help provide safe access to their medicine.

Question: How can this bill help create safe access to MMJ for patients and caregivers in Michigan?
Riffle:Without some legal language compassion clubs and dispensaries were held in a legal limbo. Also, the bill createsSafety Compliance Facilities for testing marijuana for pesticides, molds and medicinal components. This bill protects the caregiver system and the cottage industry, by not changing the components of growing and doesn’t change or negate any of the original MMMA.

1 comment:

  1. This ballot proposals to amend local medical marijuana laws in Detroit is a welcome, There is a real need to reduce penalties of basic possession of Marijuana for adults. True, that these local efforts can help move us towards total legalization, and an end to the government’s war on marijuana.