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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

VGIP Update for September 2016 - by Ben Horner

MI Legalize Makes Its Last Stand

The MI Legalize campaign lost their case to reverse a decision by the state Board of Canvassers regarding the 180 day ruling for signature gathering. The Michigan Court of claims agreed with the decision that rejected approximately 200K signatures which were collected after the deadline for petition circulators to complete and turn in their petition. MI Legalize board members made a decision in November of last year to continue past the 180-day window and join the Committee to Ban Fracking to challenge the current petitioning rules on constitutional grounds. Unlike the Committee to Ban Fracking, MI legalize continued to fund raise and raised over a million dollars in 18 months. The campaigns leadership vows to take the suit to the Supreme Court and is defending attacks from activists that say this strategy to ignore election laws and misdirect resources is counter-productive to real legalization.

      “These were very well-intentioned people, good-hearted but very naive — they really needed much more money and much sooner to pull this off” Tim Beck from Coalition for a Safer Michigan told the Detroit Free Press. Beck worked with the Michigan Responsibility Council to explore a plan to work with the Michigan legislature to create a state controlled six-company cultivation monopoly, which would replace the caregiver system as the source of cannabis for dispensaries throughout Michigan.

      Board Member of MI Legalize Rick Thompson and Jamie Lowell, formally of the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers (MACC), worked aggressively to take control of MI Legalize from the beginning of the groups creation. Lowell and Thompson work for dispensaries and have used their media platforms and grass-roots lobbying to represent what they call the “Michigan Cannabis Community.” They pressed the board to bring on Nick Zettell, formerly chair of U of M Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and organizer of the Speakers for the Ann Arbor Hash Bash. Zettell worked with Lowell and Darrel Stavros, owner of Third Coast Compassion Club to arrange the speakers at Hash Bash. Several disgruntled marijuana activists questioned why the campaign paid Zettell twenty-one thousand dollars to be the Deputy Campaign Manager. Zettell, who had no previous experience running petitioning campaigns, spent over a year working part time for the campaign.

MI Legalize board members
Chuck Ream and Nick Zettell
“For 12 months I oversaw the organization of volunteers, organized and hosted fund-raisers, sent daily e-mail blasts, organized petition drop-offs and pick-ups. I organized regional circulating teams. Secured presence at concerts/festivals/events, and of course petitioned my ass off.” Defended Nick Zettell, who was backed up by fellow board members that have testified to his tremendous service to the campaign.

    Professional campaign strategists know that in order to bring an issue to the ballot box, very particular rules pertaining to the layout and content of a petition, the way the signatures are written and verified, and timely filing is needed to guaranty that all the money and resources invested pay off. Attorney Jeff Hank, MI Legalize drafter and Chairman, has taken a huge gamble on challenging the system for petitioning itself and betting the resources garnered from mostly small donors across the state on his argument that the rules are just unconstitutional, even though this issue was settled in 1982 and again in 1986, Consumers Power v. Attorney General and Citizens for Capital Punishment v. Secretary of State.
MI Legalize board member Debra Young
MI Legalize board member Debra Young explains, “This was not unexpected. Even if we would have gotten a favorable ruling from the Court of Claims, the State would certainly file an appeal. We have been prepared to adjudicate this before the Michigan Supreme Court and are certain we will prevail. We are confident the Court will hear our plea. This is really so much more than just Cannabis reform, it’s a voter suppression issue and there have been several cases similar that have gotten favorable rulings just in the last couple of weeks. MI Legalize is committed to following this through.”

     Michal McShane, patient activist disagrees. “It (MI Legalize) was an underhanded opportunity to hijack the Marijuana Industry in Michigan. The same tactics are being used all over the US and being disguised as patriotic freedom. The facts are these laws put more people at risk of persecution than currently exist. There are a bunch of lawyers in the game that have no intention to help out anybody but themselves.”

Michael McShane, Medical Marijuana Patient Advocate
Jamie Lowell and Rick Thompson joined us backstage at the High Times Country Fair in Clio Michigan this August. Darrel Stavros, Lowell’s business partner, was working with the musicians as manager and sponsor and we covered the backstage with John Sinclair, Dan Skye the editor of High Times, Danny Danko, and many others. Lowell used his time on the stage to give away one of the awards to plug MI Legalize and ask for more money for the campaign. People in the crowd asked, “Is it to pay for Mr. Thompson’s rent”, which led to a burst of laughter in the crowd. Rick and Jamie are members or participants in the many small to large sized groups involved in cannabis throughout the state, including MI Norml, Hash Bash and the Monroe Street Fair, National Patient Rights Association, Ann Arbor and Detroit Cannabis Gild, Grannies for Grass, Parents for Pot, and many others. Lowell and Thompson have a weekly blog talk radio show called Planet Green Trees with Attorney Michael Komorrn from the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association (MMMA). Many local activists, lawyers, and business owners that appear on the show include what they refer to as the “Community.”

      September 9th is the deadline to send information to the ballot printers for the 2016 election in Michigan. It is unlikely MI Legalize will be considered in time to make the ballot this year, but if they win like the loyal board members hope, then legalization could be on the 2018 ballot. However, even if they did win the appeal to the Supreme Court, the board of Canvassers have yet to validate the signatures against the list of registered votes and according to third party validation, the validity rate is below the 70% mark needed to have enough valid signatures to make the ballot. 

MI legalize board member and owner of Third Coast Compassion Club Jamie Lowell, medical marijuana patient advocate Constance Taylor, musican Laith Al-Saadi, medical marijuana patient advocate Big T, owner of Third Coast Compassion Club Darrell Stavros, writer poet and High Times life time achievement  winner John Sinclair and editor of High Times and MC Dan Skye.


  1. There is only one solution for Prohibition. And it's not legalized recreational pot.

    Full and Total Repeal is the ONLY solution.
    Abrogate Prohibition Michigan Today For A Beneficial & Better Tomorrow.

    Timothy Locke - Treasurer/Founder Abrogate Prohibition Michigan.

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