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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Navigating the Legalization Crossroads - by Ben Horner

Will the State Take Over Medical Marijuana?

Tim Beck is well known in the cannabis community for his work with Michigan NORML, CPU, DPA and several other state and national pro-marijuana organizations. Tim led and helped pass most of the initiatives throughout the state for both legalization as well as medical marijuana. Mr. Beck has recently taken a position with the Michigan Responsibility Council (MRC), which represents a push by a well-financed lobbying group to establish a large scale state monopoly on the cultivation and distribution of cannabis in Michigan.  Senator Rick Jones chaired another of a series of meetings on the various medical marijuana reform bills this month. Beck informed the community the following:

     “Two of four scheduled testimonies were given before the meeting was cut short, when the Senators were abruptly called to session to possibly vote on the road bills. Senator Jones warned all attendees in advance that such a thing could happen and if it did, the testimonies will be heard another day.

     First to testify was the NPRA, represented by Robin Schneider and Doug Mains, who proceeded to endorse the bills as written and approved by the House.
Ms. Schneider stated the bills “were vetted and greatly improved upon since 2014...we can do better with regulation.”

     Mr. Mains said “When the patient/caregiver system works, it works great, but when it doesn’t, patients are forced to go underground... we don’t want the wild west...4209 strikes a balance...we don’t want an unregulated system.”

     Next up was the “Michigan Cannabis Development Association” represented by William Rochon. According to Mr. Rochon, the MCDA represents some 40 canna businesses in Michigan, whose members “follow a code of ethics for people with doctors recommendations” and “provide a safe, welcoming environment for patients.”

    Mr. Rochon expressed his groups enthusiasm for “background checks, fingerprinting...and tough penalties” for ‘bad actors” and other “irresponsible practitioners...who produce dangerous products.”  He went on to say “this is an opportunity to stop the chaos.”

     When the MCDA testimony was finished, Senator Jones called a halt to the meeting as the Committee had to immediately report to session for a possible vote. Scheduled testimony from “Helix TCS and the “Evergreen Management Group” was aborted and will occur at the next scheduled hearing.

     As in the hearing on October 20th, Senator Jones was the only legislator who made any comment. He expressed his opinion at the end of Ms. Schneider’s testimony that “landlords and property managers” would welcome legal cannabis ingestibles because many of them don’t want smoking in their buildings.”

     This shift in stance from a caregiver based program under the leadership of Robin Schneider from the NPRA and Denise Pollicello from the MCDA has many patients and caregivers concerned.

     Jamie Lowell from MI legalize and ASA stated, “The described testimony is disheartening. Robin Schneider and the NPRA have also been working hard and she had this to say to the Detroit Free Press:

     “If I had to guess, I’d say there’s between 80 and 100,” Schneider said. Dispensaries safeguard society as well as medical-pot users, she said, because instead of relying on street-corner dealers or trying haphazardly to grow their own cannabis, medical-marijuana users can visit a normal-looking retail shop.

     The President of the NPRA has explained to the press that he hopes to shutter unscrupulous dispensaries so that places like his, Natures Alternatives, don’t have to be worried about being raided.


To Legalize or Not To Legalize

     MI legalize, the grassroots campaign to legalize all forms of cannabis, hopes that the pause in signature gathering indicates that the competing ballot campaign from Michigan Cannabis Coalition (MCC) has lost its momentum.

     Matt Marsden, from the MCC denies that their campaign is in trouble and says the campaign is taking a “pause” to study the 210,000 voters who have already signed the MCC’s petition. They need 252,523 valid voter signatures to get on the ballot.

     This group is largely funded by RevSix Data Systems, which has chosen not to disclose the campaigns funding.

Marsden told the Detroit News,  “We’re trying to reshape how ballot proposals are done. We have the ability and the time to take a break, study this and put it in a file so down the road we won’t have to spend as much money on campaigning and polling.”

     “Our pause is a strategic pause,” Marsden said. He insists that they have plenty of time to make the ballot.

     MI Legalize claims to be on pace to make the ballot as well, although they too are hiding their numbers.  Finances are not hidden in the fashion the MCC’s are, but they have not indicated how many signatures have been collected.

     According to several members of the board they are scrambling to raise as much money as possible through a series of fund-raisers, but are just shy of what they need to finish the signature portion of the campaign. A possible strategy to change the start of the campaign to a month after they original start date, has been floating around.  If Mi legalize is to do so, the strategy may extend the opportunity to collect signatures through December and part of January.  Most experts agree that this would be a sign of desperation. This strategy may prove complicated legally as well as other stated challenges in the bills language that could impede the question from making the ballot in the 2016 Presidential election.

     For the record this publication has donated to the MI Legalize campaign.

1 comment:

  1. A Constitutional Amendment to just Repeal Cannabis Prohibition and remove ALL Penalties is the only way to fix this issue, or the state will be fighting it for another 100 yrs and more.