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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cannabis Law Reform Planning for 2014 Underway

Cannabis Law Reform Planning for 2014 Underway  
Michigan Legislators Attend Strategy Meeting

The cannabis law reform movement in Michigan constantly gains momentum. We aim straight for victory. “You can make it if you try” says reggae singer Jimmy Cliff; and in Michigan we try harder. Our movement had a winning 2013, and enthusiasm for 2014 is tremendous.  2014 will be critical and decisive.

2013 was huge. Nationally, Colorado and Washington moved to establish legal pot shops. Sanja Gupta did his game changing CNN documentary. Attorney General Eric Holder said that feds will respect state cannabis laws.
Michigan accomplishments in 2013 were also epic. The heavily Republican House of Representatives passed “Provisioning Centers” (HB 4271) by a vote of 95 to 14 and passed HB 5104 (allowing edibles and concentrates) by 100 to 9. (Families with epileptic kids had testified for this bill, and their moral force was overwhelming.) 
To plan for a great 2014 a group of Michigan cannabis leaders attended“Sunday Brunch 2”, on January 12. It was inspiring.
We were honored by something  which may be unique in the American cannabis movement. Both my members of the Michigan legislature, House Rep. Jeff Irwin and State Senator Rebekah Warren were present at the meeting to help us craft a winning legislative program for 2014! They support the desire of their constituents to end cannabis prohibition.  (Joints and the flower arrangement were put away during the time that legislators were present. They declined the enhanced pumpkin ginger scones.)
Rep. Irwin said that his bill to *decriminalize marijuana in Michigan* (HB 4623) was still in committee and in the control of Rep. Cotter. Hopefully Rep. Cotter will schedule a hearing.  The marijuana decriminalization bill has “affected the conversation” within the legislature, and will stay in play. “Continued success at the ballot box” was what Jeff said was needed to ultimately make it pass. 
Rep. Irwin made a point to say that our strategy of constantly winning at the local level was particularly impressive since our initiatives clearly have very little funding and almost no “campaigns”. They are “carried on totally on the support of the public”, Jeff said. We should “keep the ball rolling”.
Rep. Irwin told us to put our intense lobbying focus on the Senate at this time and get our two critical basic bills passed.  
He said that we must become activists and become involved in government at whatever level we can. He asked us to “be mindful of how your work ties into the larger picture” of eventual legalization.
Jeff constantly reminds us that to be successful in the big league we have to “centralize data collection” in a systematic way. We have to make as large a list as possible of Michigan voters who support cannabis law reform - in order to have a chance to get legalization on the 2016 ballot in Michigan - which Jeff wants to see! He said we will need fundraising to make this happen, and suggested that our slogan should be “Will you put an ounce toward your freedom?”
Jeff said we should create a “joint” organization that represents all of us who are for legalization. There would need to be a clear structure of rules and bylaws for that group, and respect for the information collected. The “power and relationships” have to be clear in this group from the beginning. We have to set up the infrastructure to collect the data, do the fundraising, get on the ballot, and win it.
We should create our own independent entity to funnel money into Michigan’s political process to gain influence. 
Senator Warren explained that there is no way that we can afford to take a Yes vote in the Senate for granted.
The Senate regards itself as the “deliberative” body, and we have to do all our testimony and work again with “full force”. The families are ready to testify. We have to frame our issue in terms of safety and medicine, of local control and safe access.
We should focus on the leadership. We are fortunate that our bill has been sent to the “Government Operations” committee (considering the alternative). The goal is to get the Government Operations Committee to have its hearing on our bills. We need EVERY vote we can get and can’t “write off” anyone. 
Switch topics:  Democratic platform document for 2014 election. I (Chuck) plan to get Jeff Irwin’s 4 bills that relate to us into the Democratic Party Platform this year, (these are decriminalization of marijuana, forfeiture reform, criminal informant reform, and industrial hemp).  Are there any Democratic party members out there who want to help?
There was discussion of whether the lobbying firm GCSI (Governmental Consultant Services Inc.), “Michigan’s leading political lobbying firm”, has influence in the Michigan Senate.  Senator Warren said they are very relevant to the Senate, and are based on an “old school, relationship based model”. They have paid a huge amount for relationships, and when you pay them you have access. It is excellent that our own “Stakeholders Group” will employ GCSI at this critical time. (And I am in awe of the great accomplishments in the legislature during 2013 of Robin S, lobbyist Kevin M and the NPRA (National Patients Rights Association).
Senator Warren said that lobbyists can be very effective, however, “You can never replace someone from your own district telling you a story you can’t forget.” This is the time that you need to talk to your Michigan State Senator!

2014: What about local Michigan Campaigns?

2013 was a “non election year”, but we followed our 5 citywide victories in 2012 with three more last November. We put the legalization of an ounce or less, on private property, by adults, on city ballots. On Nov. 5 2013 our decisive victories in Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale were big national news. A sixty percent victory in American politics is called a landslide. All of our victories for cannabis law reform were “landslides”; yet the brutal and self righteous inquisition of cannabis prohibition churns mindlessly forward – wrecking lives, arresting good citizens, jailing them, stealing their home, car and money, kidnapping children and trashing human rights and our constitution.
Therefore, we will create many more local victories in 2014 for cannabis (and for core American values.) 
Cannabis law reform initiatives will win in Michigan in 2014, in cities large and small, Democrat and Republican, rich and poor, from the west coast to the shore of Lake Huron. Each town’s verdict is a nail into the coffin of cannabis prohibition and we will pound these nails until the coffin falls into its grave.  (I remind readers that MMMReport isn’t just a magazine; it’s a critical part of planning and funding the Michigan movement for the freedom of our herb and our people.)
Money is still our “stumbling block”.  Maybe there could be a unified fundraiser for Michigan local campaigns!?
Jeff Hank, our charismatic leader in last year’s Lansing campaign, is going to lead a legalization campaign in his home town of East Lansing this year.
Beyond that, our set of local campaigns for 2014 will be finalized by the local leaders with Tim Beck and me and will be announced soon. We now have leaders from ten Michigan cities who want to create local cannabis reform initiatives for 2014.  That’s totally unprecedented. Michigan is among the top five states in fighting cannabis prohibition at the “grassroots” level, and we never falter.
It is time to “double down” on our effort. Most Americans think cannabis should be legal; yet our people are brutally oppressed. Cannabis prohibition should fall fast, like the Berlin Wall.  Freedom will be sweet.

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