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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

VGIP UPDATE: Working in Lansing and Gaylord - by Ben Horner

     In Gaylord, dispensary owners and I met with the mayor and city attorney to discuss the proposed zoning ordinance. The meeting was both frank and productive. An understanding was established that the proposed ordinance was to be sent to planning, and a public hearing on the matter would happen soon. Chad Marrow and Al Witt are the two men most responsible for this progress in the city of Gaylord. Al, Chad, Vivian, and Frank are standing up for their patients and caregivers by resisting the county prosecutor and educating their community leaders.

In the capitol, hearings on dispensary bills further polarized people’s views on cannabis law reform in regards to medical marijuana. Representing the dispensaries and the establishment was NPRA, MDCA, MCC and the MRC who supported amendments to do the following:

1.)  Create a 8% excise tax on all cannabis and cannabis products.
   
2.) Create an additional 6% sales tax on all cannabis and cannabis related product sales

3.)   Create a licenses for: 3 levels of commercial grows, armored transport to create separation and transparency between cultivation and retail, provisioning centers (aka dispensaries), testing labs, and processing centers for edibles, extracts and related products.

4.)  Creates a seed to sale tracking System ran by MJ Freeway.

5.) A system that mirrors the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC), creating a board appointed by the government to regulate all cannabis.

6.)  Remove all Caregivers and home grows from participating. (Last year every caregiver could sell 60 ounces every 60 days directly to the dispensaries)

Matt Able from Cannabis Council issued a position paper that brought concern regarding these matters. I spoke on behalf of CSG, and was the only dispensary owner there questioning these amendments. Two days later a few dozen caregivers met at the capitol to participate in the VGIP lobby days.

     Adam Brook, Tim Locke, Carrie Justice, Hemptress Jolene and several others spoke to several of our lawmakers. Jeff Irwin who attempted to remove the excise taxes and armored cars from the bills, but failed to get the needed votes, met us on the capitol steps.

    We asked Jeff Irwin, how can caregivers get back into the bills and reduce taxes? Jeff’s response was, “It is going to be very difficult. The people pushing for these restrictions have a lot of money. Their only chance is for patients and caregivers to organize and speak to their House Reps and Senators.”

   Richard Clement has been active in Detroit and Michigan marijuana law reform with a special interest in African Americans.

     Richard asks business owners in Detroit, “If you have a drive-thru you better show up. The meeting is on Monday morning at 10am, October 12th, please show up. If you cannot, please write mail, write.”

     Richard Clement stated, “Some type of regulation is good. Licensing fees that give back to the community. Everyone should receive a fair shot for local small business owners. But in the end only the strong will survive. We need a community benefit plan. These dispensaries need to help the city, for example “Pot for Potholes”, or maybe funding a few recreation centers that have had to close due to underfunding. Pensioners could also use some assistance.”

     “We have made a lot of progress, most people are not being arrested for being regular consumers, and we have freed up law enforcement. If Detroit does things right we have a huge opportunity to benefit the local economy. I am very proud of the progress we have made so far on cannabis law reform. “    

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