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Monday, December 5, 2016

Keeping Cannabis Separate from ‘Big Pharma’ - by Rebecca Veenstra

Keeping Cannabis Separate from 
‘Big Pharma’

     Former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura recently released his new book Marijuana Manifesto, arguing for complete legalization of marijuana in the U.S.  He makes his case by explaining that “controversial pharmaceutical company INsys Therapeutics contributed $500,000 to fight the Arizona ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana just this September.”

     This illustrates the major obstacle to legalization presented by ‘Big Pharma’ who have seen a decline in their huge profits in states that have passed measures allowing for marijuana use and cultivation.

     Ventura states that “in the case of marijuana you could grow it in your own back yard. Poor people would have access to it.”  That, I think is the key reason we need to organize and successfully enact a ballot measure in Michigan for full legalization to be on the ballot in 2018. 

     Michigan is one of only 15 states that does not prohibit home cultivation for registered cannabis patients. We have a sacred right that will quickly dissolve if we do not shout loudly and organize effectively.  Although 29 states allow for cannabis use, only 15 allow for cultivation. So, in the 14 states allowing possession and usage, poor people likely find affording quality cannabis to be a challenge. 

     The government and big business makes out grandly with huge revenues by selling cannabis, while the person trying to manage his/her PTSD or cancer symptoms on a budget in an eco-friendly way is risking prosecution from his/her state as well as the Federal government.

     Despite widespread enthusiasm for nationwide legalization in Canada, rumors abound about the current government drastically limiting or altogether eliminating the rights to personal cultivation. 

     Here, in the U.S., with 8 years of Obama, we have existed under less duress than any previous time in history.  However, President-elect Donald Trump, if he is successful in appointing Republican Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama to his team, things could take a very different tone. Mr. Sessions has made no secret about his disapproval of cannabis use. Yet, I assume, he is in full support of ‘Big Pharma’. 

     With 29 States having active legislation allowing for cannabis use, the possibility exists for the participating states to unify and declare nullification. Under the U.S. law, nullification is a rarely used action. Best explained it means that states “have a unilateral power to determine the unconstitutionality of federal laws. Thus, nullification involves declaration by a state that a federal law is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced within a state. Such a declaration by a state is final and binding and cannot be overruled by the courts.” 

     The long and short of it is, even though many states have enacted pro-marijuana legislation, Federal marijuana laws are still valid and enforceable within those jurisdictions. That being said, former New York governor Rudy Giuliani signed legislation measures that allow for possession and use of marijuana, but prohibit cultivation in the state of New York.

     Mr. Trump is toying with the idea of including Mr. Giuliani in his administration. So, with Mr. Sessions and Mr. Giuliani at the helm, here in Michigan our activism to preserve our cultivation rights despite current trends is imperative. 

     2018 is just two short years away. If Michigan citizens unite for this cause and chose to declare nullification by challenging the constitutionality of federal law prohibiting personal cultivation and use of marijuana (which can be interpreted as a valid attempt to prevent enforcement of Federal anti-marijuana laws in our state) in conjunction with recreational legalization measures that preserve personal cultivation rights, we may be able to prevail against the forces of ‘Big Pharma’ and big money taking over the distribution of marijuana in our state. 

     This can only happen if we organize and mobilize. Otherwise, we will watch our right to grow marijuana for ourselves slip from our grasp.  The end result of which will be making criminals out of decent hard-working people who choose the economical option of growing their own cannabis instead of buying over-taxed plants grown in factory settings by people who bear an uncanny resemblance to ‘Big Pharma’. 

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