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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Michigan News for September 2017 - by Rachel Bunting

WeedMaps Billboards Come to Michigan
Ann Arbor: California-based WeedMaps is bringing “WeedFacts” to Michigan. The technology and marijuana discovery service is paying for 22 pro-cannabis billboards in Lansing, 12 in Ann Arbor, and 6 in Metro Detroit. This is part of an international awareness venture which is also taking place in six other states and Canada. The billboards show statistics from states that have already legalized the plant with the goal of providing “communities with credible, verifiable facts about the benefits of legal marijuana.” Statistics include unchanged youth use, lower crime rates, and increased tax revenue. A spokesperson for the site told the Detroit Free Press, “As Michigan residents consider a marijuana legalization petition…there is a lot of marijuana misinformation out there. So we think it’s important to share and talk about the benefits, underpinned by research, regarding marijuana. We want Michiganders to be informed and we want to foster open, informed discussion and debate.”

While there are groups attempting to get legalization on the November 2018 ballot, they are not working with WeedMaps in their current campaign. A spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Alcohol, Josh Hovey, said the organization is ‘indifferent’ to the advertisements as they are more focused on gathering the required number of signatures to make the ballot. Hovey then added, “Our preference, if they want to be helpful, would be for them to contribute [money] for signature collection. We’re not going to do any adds until we’re guaranteed we’re on the ballot.” The site has it’s own motivation for ordering the billboards as they are being called the ‘yelp’ of the legalized marijuana industry. They will have more businesses paying to be a part of their location site once marijuana is legalized in Michigan. Not everyone agrees with billboards. Some critics believe the statistics being presented do not tell the whole story of the effects of legalization in other states and are only based on “half truths”. No matter how critics feel or what the motivation, there is no doubt WeedMaps is trying to boost the idea of full legalization in our state.

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Tim Locke Gets Abrogate Michigan Language Approved
A new legalization petition has been approved in August that would create the most liber language in
the country for cannabis. Unlike the Regulate Cannabis like Alcohol campaign, Abrogate would legalize all form of cannabis and prevent any state monopoly.  A grassroots group is forming to acquire the 315,654 signatures needed to pass the constitutional amendment.

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Convicted After Nearly a Year
Benzie County: Last year Michigan State Police, along with the Traverse Narcotic Team and the Benzie County Sheriff’s office, obtained search warrants to raid three properties belonging to Ronald Snyder. The properties contained 383 plants as well as firearms and cash. According to mLive, nearly a year after his initial arrest for his role in the grow operation, Snyder was convicted last month and sentenced to one year with electronic tether, five years of felony probation, 40 hours of community service, and ordered to pay $3,400 in fines. Others who were charged in connection with the raid pled guilty to lesser charges and settled their cases months ago. Officials estimate the street value of the marijuana found to be around $1 million. Though most of the plants were found in enclosed, locked areas with patients names tagged on them, officers claim further investigation showed the suspects were “operating well outside of state laws”. As of now there is no word on whether Snyder plans to appeal the decision.

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Closing Dispensaries to Make Them Legal
East Lansing: Dispensaries are being told to close their doors before a certain date or risk losing the opportunity to become legal in December. This threat comes from a motion proposed by board member Donald Bailey, which roughly says if a dispensary doesn’t shut down operations by September 15th it will be ineligible for licensure when the new system goes into effect on December 15th. Though the board has ultimately postponed voting on the motion, the chair of the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board, Rick Johnson, told attendees of a meeting held last month, “If we don’t do this today we’re going to do it somewhere in the future.” Bailey referred to a Michigan Supreme Court decision from 2013 when defending his proposal, saying ,”Every dispensary that’s out there right now is open in violation of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.” Last month’s meeting was the first announcement of any plans to change dispensaries before the new licensing law takes effect in December. The idea of closing every dispensary in Michigan for 4 months is meeting strong opposition not only from shop owners themselves, who were caught off guard, but also from medical marijuana patients. One of those patients, Sue Molff, told mLive she depends on the concentrates she is only able to obtain from the retail shops. Most patients, including Molff, hate even thinking of having to turn to the black market for the medication they rely on. Medical patient and PhD candidate from Michigan State University, Mark Gibson, asked the board to take patient access into account. He told those present, “I ask in fairness, not talking about the businesses, but the patients, and ensuring that they have continuous access.”  Jason Moon, a spokesperson for LARA, which houses the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation, said there would be a review if the proposal ends up passing the board. Moon said, “The Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation will thoroughly review the recommendations and discussion from the board, and consult with the Attorney General’s office before any action is taken.” This is only a tiny reassurance to the patients with crippling pain and debilitating illnesses that depend on this medication to make it through daily life. Though the board’s next meeting is not scheduled until Oct, Johnson said the board will meet before September to discuss and vote on Bailey’s motion.

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Legalization without Taxation
Lansing: A new ballot proposal effort was given the green light to move forward last month by the Board of State Canvassers. The new movement is focusing on amending the state constitution to fully legalize the use of marijuana without taxing it. The proposal comes from Abrogate Prohibition Michigan of Midland and would get rid of all laws banning or regulating the use of marijuana. There would be no fines, taxes, or penalties associated with use of the plant. Sponsor of the proposal, Timothy Locke, told Detroit Free Press he calls it ‘the Second Amendment of Cannabis’ and compares it to the right to bear arms. There is a provision in the proposal to make the amendment retroactive to 1970. Locke explains that this was included because that is when marijuana was first criminalized in Michigan. If approved the amendment would allow those imprisoned for only state marijuana related crimes would be able to be released and have their records expunged, though this would not apply to federal drug crimes. This is completely a grass roots movement, with no paid signature collectors to gather the 315,654 valid signatures according to Locke. Supporters of the movement believe the change will boost the economy as the plant can be used to make over 50,000 different products. Volunteers will begin collecting signatures at the end of August.

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LARA Wants Your Opinion

Lansing: The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is looking for input from both users and nonusers of medical marijuana to help determine the details of future medical regulations. They would like to hear suggestions on the future rules for growers, processors, safety compliance facilities, dispensaries, and delivery drivers. Spokespersons for LARA, Jason Moon, announced, “We are interested in finding a group that represents diverse perspectives in order to gain insight into the core issues in the implementation of this new regulatory program. We will analyze the potential participants with the intent to capture feedback from all these perspectives.” The Department is inviting anyone who is interested to send an email to LARA-MedicalMarihuana@michigan.gov with WORK GROUP in the subject line to be considered for the opportunity. Other than a name, mailing and email address, phone number, which work group the applicant chooses, and the job title desired, LARA only asks for a 150-word explanation of qualifications to be in the work group. The email needs to be sent by 9 p.m. on September 5th to be considered. Those chosen will be announced on September 12th with the goal of ‘seeking input on the regulatory topics’. Officials stress that even those that are not accepted can voice their opinions at public hearings.



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1 comment:

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