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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Free the Weed 77 - by John Sinclair


      Highest greetings from downtown Detroit in the blazing heights of summertime, with the new Little Caesar’s Arena going up just south of where I’m staying and the Detroit Tigers trying to play break-even baseball just a few blocks below that.

     Me, I’m a fanatical Tigers follower and have been all my life, and while my hopes for the Tigers’ success this year are dim at best, I listen to most games on the radio broadcasts by Jim Price and Dan Dickerson and I follow the commentaries in the local newspapers while I’m in the Motor City.

     This year of 2017 has been a terrible thing so far, and it doesn’t look to get better any time soon, but more like worse. I had to vent some of my thoughts and feelings about Resident Rump and his insane clown posse of an administration in my last column, and it felt so good to get that off my chest that I thought I’d take advantage of my privilege as columnist for MMM Report with a license to shoot off my mouth at will to offer some more commentary about other aspects of modern life that are driving me nuts.

     When the great Ernie Harwell did the Tigers play-by-play broadcasts, his rule was to call the game on the field—not make up a bunch of what the Head Clown calls “fake news.” Somehow this Rumpian concept has taken over among the several writers for the Free Press and the News who cover our baseball team this season and they have devolved into sort of a vulture press devoted to picking the team apart and urging the sale of our best players.

     Who cares how much the Illitches have to pay for the players we have? They’ve sold so many pizzas that they could afford to own all the players in the league of they wanted to. I’ve never heard of sportswriters urging a team to dismantle itself in the middle of the season. The Tigers did it two or three years ago, but don’t forget that the architect of the sell-off, Dave Dombrowski, was fired some few days later.

     Two other Detroit sports-related issues are bugging me, and one involves my favorite bug-a-boo, the Detroit City Council, who were having a hard time figuring out if it would be good for the city for the Detroit Pistons to return from Oakland County to play in the new Illitch arena with the Red Wings. Duh! They should lay a red carpet all the way to Auburn Hills and lead the Pistons down the primrose path to downtown Detroit with brass bands playing and balloons swinging through the air.

     Then there’s the County of Wayne, named for the great Indian-killer called Mad Anthony Wayne, and their jailhouse issue. Maybe you don’t know that they spent millions of dollars to construct a new Wayne County Jail complex just north of Greektown but gave up before it was completed. The ruins of the jail sit there on the near edge of downtown as an ugly monument to municipal stupidity.

     Now the prominent downtown developer Dan Gilbert and Pistons owner Tom Gores have proposed that the city transfer the downtown jail acreage to them so they can tear down the ruins of the would-be county jail, build a new criminal justice complex for the county, including the new Wayne County Jail, by East Forest Avenue and the i-75 Service Drive, build a new stadium and hotel complex where the ruins are now—adjacent to Greektown—and bring in a major league soccer team to play there.

     This would seem like a no-brainer, but the Wayne County Executive, formerly the sheriff, is stretching out the process as far as he can and has postponed the decision on the Gilbert-Gores proposal several times already. He’s got some other clowns who are promising to resuscitate the incomplete jailhouse site and finish it off, but to get the jail out of downtown would be a great idea in any case, not to mention its replacement by a tax-generating civic development that would add to rather than detract from the rebuilding of downtown Detroit.

     As a former inmate of the old Wayne County jail, which still serves these 50 years later, I can attest to the importance of a new facility that would at least modernize the punitive environment and make the confinement of prisoners awaiting trial without bail less onerous. The Wayne County Jail that they have now is one of the worst possible places to keep a human being no matter what their crime.

     There aren’t so many marijuana prisoners in the county jail anymore since the citizens of Detroit legalized medical marijuana by ballot in 2005, three years before the State of Michigan would recognize medical marijuana, and then legalized personal use of the sacrament by ballot in 2012.

     For ten years the Detroit City Council ignored these developments while the medical marijuana community continued to grow in and around the city, leading to the establishment of something like 283 medical marijuana dispensaries in the City of Detroit. These places opened in formerly abandoned buildings all over the city, with a concentration of outlets along 8 Mile Road to service the smokers of Oakland and Macomb counties whose citizens weren’t so progressive as Detroit’s.

     In many, many cases the dispensaries transformed dilapidated buildings and their degenerated surroundings into shining examples of initiative and entrepreneurship that improved their neighborhoods, provided jobs for people in the dispensaries and outlets for growers, and allowed patients easy access to their medicine. It was a beautiful thing, one of the greatest signs of life in Detroit for many years.

     Instead of nurturing this movement and trying to figure out how to reap some significant municipal tax dollars from the dispensaries, the City of Detroit allowed it to grow unchecked until 2015 and then began trying to slam on the breaks. An insane set of criteria for locating and operating medical marijuana dispensaries was developed and a strenuous application process mandated that was designed to deny most dispensaries the opportunity to operate as licensed premises in the City of Detroit.

     This is the goofiest example of civic suicide I’ve ever witnessed, and there seems to be no end in sight. As Katrease Stafford reported recently in the Detroit Free Press, “Detroit's crackdown on illegally operating medical marijuana dispensaries has shuttered 167 shops since the city's regulation efforts began last year and dozens more are expected. Detroit corporation counsel Melvin Butch Hollowell said an additional 51 are in the pipeline to be closed in the coming weeks. That would bring the closures up to 218 and a step closer to the goal laid out by officials to only have 50 citywide.”

     Where do they get these people? With millions of tax dollars from marijuana sales now available, and in a city fresh out of bankruptcy proceedings that needs every dollar it can get its hands on, the local version of the insane clown posse is galloping the wrong way down a one-way street that leads to the future. And I mean no disrespect to the pop music geniuses from suburban Detroit who created and succeeded big time with their band Insane Clown Posse—they were prophets who could see what was coming on the political horizon. Look out! Free The Weed!

—Detroit

July 25, 2017

© 2017 The John Sinclair Foundation

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