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Thursday, September 3, 2015

VGIP UPDATE - by Ben Horner

 
How the Local Petition Process Can Save the Caregiver System

     When we started the VGIP (Vote Green Initiative Project) back in 2011, I had no idea what democracy was all about. In the beginning the VGIP was simply a series of meetings in which activists could meet in their communities to communicate with one another about the challenges of cannabis law reform in Michigan. I started the group because I was so impressed by the MMMA of 2008, and how it was initiated by grass roots petitioning that bypassed Michigan’s corrupt legislature. I could not have predicted the impact the VGIP would have on Michigan nor its future potential.

     As a product of these meetings we met many impressive people, from all walks of life, most of whom are regular cannabis users or supporters of medical marijuana. Some attended the meetings because of how the unfair laws criminalizing cannabis had hurt them personally, or someone close, and they needed to find away to fight back.  Others were seasoned activists and political junkies that wielded great practical wisdom and taught us several important skills. While others were wolves in sheep’s clothing infiltrating and sabotaging any community that posed a threat to their plans to control marijuana reform for personal gain.

Rick Thompson showing
his true colors.
When I first did the VGIP meetings, Jamie Lowell from Third Coast Compassion Center in Ypsilanti participated as a MC speaker. I met Mr. Lowell through an organization called the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers (MACC), where he was the treasurer. I liked working with him because he is well spoken, intelligent and connected. That was until things changed. Jamie attempted a hostile take over of the VGIP, by planning meetings without consulting us and hijacking the meetings he was moderating by not allowing certain people to participate. We asked him to stop and explained to him that we wanted him to be involved but not if he was going to alienate others. Furious, he became increasingly hostile and began misrepresenting me. Soon after, the MACC disintegrated and Jamie infiltrated the MMMA (Michigan Medical Marijuana Association) with his friend, and coconspirator, Rick Thompson.  They managed to disassemble the largest unified collective of patients and caregivers in the state. With a handsome smile and neatly pressed Ralph Lauren sweater, this so called “community leader” has done more harm to the caregiver system than almost anyone, other than Bill Schuette himself. Although he may mean well enough at times, his track record shows a path of destruction in his wake, unbeknownst to those around him.

     Feeling chastised and rejected by Mr. Lowell and his crew, I almost gave up on the VGIP. At the time I really looked up to people like Thompson and Lowell, and after the damage I had sustained from their vicious backstabbing I had just about as much as I could take. It was then that Tim Beck and Chuck Ream, from Coalition for a Safer Michigan, approached me to help them run a campaign in Flint to decriminalize marijuana for all adults within the city. Although the petition to amend the city charter was only a paper victory, this sent a clear signal to city officials about where its citizens stood on the issue.

     Over the last few years, 17 communities have passed similar local initiatives.   Although police in these cities can still charge people with possession of marijuana under state law, most of these cities have respected the will of the people and charges for possession of marijuana have been dropped.  Just like with medical Marijuana, these local petitions have helped shift public support and draw resources together for multiple, statewide efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational adult use.

     Leading these local petition drives from before medical marijuana was passed in 2008, Tim Beck and Chuck Ream started the process that continues on today. Through the VGIP, I have been the biggest supporter by funding, drafting, and organizing several campaigns. Attend any large marijuana event in Michigan and you are sure to see the black and pink Vote Green T-shirts with the names of cities around the state in which we have campaigned.

     I have learned many things from Mr. Beck and Mr. Ream, and I must say I certainly was surprised when they split into two officially separate camps. True, both of these wise gentlemen have different political views, but they have largely worked together and have been close allies over the years. Still to this day they co-moderate Michigan’s most valuable source of marijuana news and discussion.  I admire these fine gentlemen for all their efforts, but to my dismay I am not able to aid them with their endeavors at this time. I cannot help Tim because he’s at a level above my pay grade. I cannot help Chuck because MI Legalize has very little probability of success.

     Now, I know that statement is going to really piss off a whole bunch of people that are volunteering time and money to MI Legalize. Listen, my Legalize friends, not many of you out there have personally collected more signatures than me. I’m out collecting sigs, but not for these state petitions. Here’s why - I support MI Legalize in theory, but the petition has a potential flaw in its design. When the petitions were brought before the board a discrepancy was noted, in order to make the ballot MI Legalize will need a lot of money, which they don’t have, and even if all the volunteers come together and collect all their signatures, Schuette can challenge the petition language based on its potential flaw. This would delay the petition from making the ballot until after the presidential election when its chance of passing is lessened substantially. It may be a red herring by design. And when/if it fails my guess is it will be because it was infiltrated by Mr. Thompson and Mr. Lowell for the same reason they have infiltrated so many other groups.

     If MI Legalize fails, and there is no back up plan, all the caregivers and activists will be spent from the process and there will be nothing to stop a state and commercial takeover of Michigan’s number one cash crop. Once again, wealthy power brokers and venture capitalists will take everything after they’ve finished trampling the small farmers of Michigan. There was a time, when our united groups were infiltrated, that we rocked the Capital with our cries for personal freedom and safe access, but now we are weak and divided.

     In the end I support both of my mentors, Chuck Ream and Tim Beck. I would gladly sacrifice everything for legalization. I know that I have done my part to get them there, working the local petition drives. But is there another way? What happens if they fail?



     We are currently drafting a similar petition for the city of Cadillac and other cities around the state. The VGIP is also exploring other local cities for decriminalization and other socially conscious issues that have the potential to reinvigorate others into referendums, petitions, and other forms of direct democracy.

VGIP Getting it done in Lansing.
Recently the VGIP has been working with some fine folks in Gaylord to circulate petitions to zone provisioning centers (aka dispensaries) within the city. This was done as a response to the raids on medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and dispensaries being raided.  I don’t know what the result will be when the petitions are turned in, but barring a legal challenge, the people of the City of Gaylord will get a chance to vote on this issue. This gives hope to those who have and still are aiding patients and caregivers with their medical marijuana. In the end, these “local options” may be the only chance to save small cannabis farmers from being pushed out. You too can fight back in your city, and the VGIP can help. This “local option” can educate people locally and move the needle closer in our direction. Vote green, with options!

VGIP EVENTS YOU CAN LEARN FROM:
     If you are interested in unlocking the mysteries of operating a dispensary in Michigan, I encourage you to attend the next Business Seminar we are hosting in Ann Arbor on September 26th at the Wyndham Hotel and Conference Center or at the 10th Michigan Medical Marijuana Conference in October on the 23rd through the 25th. It is my hope that everyone has a chance to participate in this new emerging cannabis industry and that we end the prohibition of cannabis across America.


THINGS THAT YOU CAN DO TO MAKE A DIFERENCE:
     If you are interested in starting a local petition drive in your city, please send an email to chefbmoney@gmail.com with the name of your city (sorry, no townships or villages petition provisions in the Michigan Home Rule Act) and why you think your city is ripe for change. Also we are looking for volunteers to make appointments with their lawmakers in Lansing for Medical Marijuana lobbying days in September on the 22nd and 24th. If you are interested in meeting with your lawmaker to let them know how you feel about the state controlled cultivation, distribution, taxing, and monitoring systems bills related to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program please contact us at 810-820-8953






 

3 comments:

  1. I've always thought rick Thompson was a toolbag

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