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Sunday, January 11, 2015

VGIP UPDATE: Why the Bills Failed -by Ben Horner

       HB 4271 (the Provisioning Center Bill) and HB 5104 (the Concentrates and Edibles bill) were being lobbied for years starting with the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers (MACC). Spearheaded by independent lobbyist Kevin McKinney and activist Robin Schneider, the bill 4271 was originally drafted by the board members of MACC as the “Local Option Bill.” Critics within our community supported the idea of legal safe transfer points after a series of raids, but had great concern that many communities would opt out of allowing dispensaries.

      After MACC dissolved, a new group, the National Patients rights Association (NPRA) took over, who bought out Kevin McKinney’s contract with MACC and retained Robin Schneider as their Legislative liaison.
      The bill was introduced by republican Michael Callton, from the Michigan House of Representatives, and was renamed “The Provisioning Center Bill”. A second bill, HB 5104, was introduced by another republican from the House, Eileen Kowall, which addressed issues not covered by the first bill, such as cannabis infused edibles and concentrates like Simpson oil and hash extraction. With many house sponsors, lots of fund raising and two pizza parties (paid for by yours truly) at the capital building we managed to pass both bills out of the house with high percentage of yes votes.
      It was at this time that I was contacted by Mike Callton, the bill sponsor, who said that in order to get things through the Michigan Senate, more recourse was needed. He introduced myself and a few other business owners to GCSI, one of Lansing’s top lobbying firms. I started the Cannabis Stakeholders Group (CSG) to aid in this effort and protect the core rights of the MMMA of 2008. Unfortunately, NPRA and the infamous David Brogren from CPU blocked our attempts to push the bills through and resolve the issues needed to gain the Governor’s support. Foolishly waiting till lame duck session, most of the business owners in Michigan listen to Robin, ostracized myself and others who supported the CSG.
      These bills died in Lame duck, which is what we told everyone was going to happen. Lies from the NPRA, the non-sense interference by CPU and their unwillingness to work with the rest of the patients and Caregivers in the state that they supposedly represented is why the bills failed. A lack of solidarity in the cannabis community was the main reason. Bill Schuette, the MSP and Michigan Sheriffs Association performed the coup de grace at the last minute, suggesting that the vast majority of medical patients are fakers and that legalization with state control made more sense. With pressure from the governor’s office and all the cops in Michigan, Callton and Kowall pulled the bills.
      If we had worked together as a whole community, these bills could have been passed last summer, in my humbled and experienced opinion.

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