Highest greetings from the Motor City, where I just had a ball celebrating 4/20 at Trixie’s Bar in Hamtramck with a splendid musical ensemble featuring the pianist Kenn Thomas. This followed on my musical adventures in Ann Arbor during the Hash Bash weekend, including guest appearances at the Wyndham Garden Hotel on Friday night with Bob Baldori & his band and Tino Gross & the Dumpster Machine, preceded by a set with my own band with Jeff “Baby” Grand on guitar.
The next day was a whirlwind of activity for me starting with the delivery of a poem backed by Laith al-Saadi on guitar on the Diag at the University of Michigan, a stint on Captain Kirk’s bus off of Monroe Street, some time at Gary Kowal’s booth signing posters and T-shirts, a visit to the Electric Eye coffeeshop on North Main Street, another appearance at the Hash Bash Cannabis Cup at the Wyndham Garden Hotel, and ending with my annual appearance on-stage with the Macpodz and Laith al-Saadi at the Blind Pig.
Now I’m looking at cataract surgery here in Detroit next month and another couple months of taking it easy until my body can recover from all these blows to its integrity. After my 4/20 performance at Trixie’s I’ve decided to curtail my performing arts activities and public appearances in general until I can put the hurt and pain behind me. I hate to bother you with all the old people complaints but there’s no getting around it. I’m just trying to hold on long enough to establish my Foundation to secure the future of my life’s work in poetry, music, journalism, and political and cultural activism, and to witness the advent of legalized marijuana in the state of Michigan.
I’ve said it quite a few times in this column and it’s become my central preachment in recent years: once support for marijuana legalization in the United States reaches 60% of the population, politicians of every stripe will be plumping for legalization. For example, recently the Republican from Ohio and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, a lifelong opponent of marijuana legalization, joined the board of Acreage Holdings, a firm that cultivates, processes and dispenses marijuana, and became a spokesman for the burgeoning marijuana industry.
On the other side of the aisle, New York City Democrat and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he will introduce legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. He claims that legislation to increase access to marijuana was “long overdue” and that far “too many people” had been affected by the government’s crackdown on the drug.
“I've seen too many people’s lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail, much too long,” Schumer told Cristiano Lima in Politico. “Ultimately, it’s the right thing to do: Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?”
Duh! While these positive flip-flops are very good for our cause, it’s important to remember that these are the same people who made marijuana illegal in 1937 and enacted and enforced legislation that put marijuana smokers in prison and ruined our lives for the next 80 years. Driven by the propaganda spewed forth by Harry Anslinger, the first U.S. narcotics czar, and by the belief that the rest of the population also bought into this tissue of horseshit, politicians of every persuasion held forth against marijuana for this entire period and have not relented legislatively even unto the present moment.
Since 1996 the marijuana legalization movement has made huge and relentless strides toward achieving our goal of freeing the weed, but none of these steps have so far been taken by state or federal legislators in any form. Senators, congressmen, judges, establishment authorities of all sorts have remained firm against the easing of the marijuana laws and have moved only when leveraged aside by the vote of the people in direct citizen initiative campaigns generally approved by more than 60% of voters.
It’s the citizens who have changed the laws, and frankly we’ve done so well with our grass-roots campaign that the established forces are finally beginning seriously to investigate our position. But we’re still a long way from where we want to be, and our greatest problem will continue to be the political sector and its legal manipulations intended to maintain its control over the issue of marijuana use and distribution.
The voters pass the legalizing measures, and the authorities step in to distort and hinder our goals as they have in Michigan, where the struggle to open and maintain a business that serves the medical marijuana community keeps intensifying and becoming more and more difficult to win. With exorbitant application and licensing fees now mandated by state and municipal governments for people trying to operate a compassion center providing medical marijuana to licensed patients, the first thing the authorities did was to threaten the dispensaries currently in operation with legal action and order them to close their doors.
Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau has filed several reports following this heinous development, writing that “More than 200 medical marijuana businesses across the state, most of them in Detroit, have received cease and desist letters from the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in March and April, telling the owners to shut down or risk becoming ineligible for a license to continue operating—or even to be busted by law enforcement.
“The business owners got the letters because they hadn’t submitted an application to the state for a license yet and had no proof of approval from the communities where they were operating. As a result, the state deemed that they were operating illegally.
“As for the patients with medical marijuana cards,” Gray continues, “there are more than 277,000 in Michigan, and while 210 dispensaries were ordered to shutter their businesses, there are still 215 operating in the state under temporary emergency rules passed by the state government.”
This is at best a very unhappy balance and a problem that will continue to have to be addressed by the marijuana legalization movement long after the laws prohibiting marijuana use are repealed by public vote. While we’re still waiting for the state Board of Canvassers to admit that the legalization initiative will be printed on the November ballot, soon this issue will be settled and at least we’ll be voting to FREE THE WEED in 2018!
April 24, 2018
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