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Friday, March 13, 2015

Will Legalized Commercial Growing Kill the Caregiver? -by Ben Horner

     Phillip K. Dick, author of Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly, in 1962 published his Hugo award winning novel, Man in the High Castle, which depicted packs of marijuana cigarettes for sale at the corner store like any other branded consumer product. Decades later, Dick’s vision of decriminalized mainstream sales and production of cannabis is a very real possibility. As states legalize adult use of marijuana, existing medical marijuana providers fear that the emergence of state regulated commercial growing companies will force them out of the market and the state and federal government will regulate away their rights to grow.

     Cannabis activists in Michigan are considering a new grass roots petition drive. This petition would be circulated prior to the 2016 presidential election. A multi-pronged system to regulate medical marijuana, industrial hemp and recreational cannabis is based off of new legislation that is in the drafting phase in Michigan House Representative Jeff Irwin’s office. 
        Jeff Irwin is known as a supporter of cannabis law reform in Michigan. In years past, he introduced a decriminalization bill that died last year in the house, as well as a cosponsor of the medical marijuana bills that have been reintroduced this year. Jeff Hank, an attorney and cannabis activist from Lansing Michigan, recently helped to form the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee (MCCLRC) and has formed a board to spearhead an effort to run the petition drive and hopefully place their multi-pronged solution to cannabis on the ballot.
      Sensing marijuana’s legalization in Michigan as inevitability, members of the Republican Party have and venture capitalists have formed a new group to run their own petition drive. The Michigan Responsibility Council (MRC) is a recently been formed by Suzie Mitchell, a Republican political fundraiser, and GOP consultant Paul Welday with other unidentified members. Their goal is to advocate for a state-regulated distribution of medical marijuana. Sources that have met with the MRC have reported that they are planning a petition drive of their own, one that will completely repeal the MMMA of 2008, disband the caregiver system and remove all rights to personal cultivation.
     Leaders of the NPRA and the Safer Michigan Coalition have held meeting with the MRC. Negotiations may impact both sides’ petition language. The NPRA has announced their position, which is a desire to protect the existing medical program here in Michigan.
     Some conservatives look at the emerging medical marijuana industry as fly by night pot dealer’s enterprise that floods the black market. They argue that the only way to control marijuana, and protect Michigan’s children from the harmful effects of marijuana legalization is a tightly controlled state system. The MRC plan is to have ten grow sights licensed to the companies that are paying for their proposed petition drive. The MRC claims to have ten million dollars for their campaign, accumulated from their undisclosed members.
     In contrast, the MCCLRC has very little funding at this time. Historically, grassroots efforts to place questions on a statewide election are very difficult to pass. Hank hopes that with all of the people currently working in the medical marijuana industry, volunteers and existing small businesses will come together to aid in the effort. 

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