After weeks of drama and behind the scenes wheeling and dealing, the Michigan Legislature finally punted on June 5th. By failing to pass the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol's (CRMLA) legalization ballot initiative into law within the 40 day timeline specified by the constitution, the matter automatically goes to the voters this November.
If the Legislature had passed the measure into law, they could amend it by a simple majority vote. Now, if passed by the voters, it will take a 3/4 super majority of the Legislative Branch to change one word.
Given their distrust of the GOP controlled Legislature, many activists in Michigan cheered this news, believing the measure is a sure win at the voting booth in November. With poll numbers favoring a yes vote by about 60%, they are likely right.
That said, the opposition has not thrown in the towel. They are fighting hard and mean to defeat the measure.
Right now, the opposition is loosely guided by a group called "Healthy and Productive Michigan" (HPM).
HPM is led by a former a "constituent relations" employee of Attorney General Bill Schuette,
In a June 15th appearance on the political TV show "Off the Record" Greenlee refused to disclose the specific groups supporting HPM, However, in broad general terms, he said his group was backed by law enforcement, various chambers of commerce, drug treatment professionals, public education experts, and members of the "faith based community."
Campaign finance reports filed with the Michigan Secretary of State as of last April, indicate HPM received $275,000 from Kevin Sabet and Patrick Kennedy's "Project SAM" (Smart Alternatives to Marijuana) and a few thousand dollars from individual donors in Michigan. Greenlee has been paying himself and another staffer approximately $9,000 per month in salary.
It seems Greenlee is using his salary to motivate and coordinate the efforts of traditional anti cannabis organizations, all of whom opposed the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act of 2008. Some of these groups are financed by federal tax dollars to "educate" their communities to the danger of drugs like marijuana. This is all perfectly legal, as long as they do not specifically urge a NO vote on an election issue
In Antrim and Emmet Counties, a federally funded anti drug group called "Safe in Northern Michigan" put up roadside bill boards picturing: " marijuana leaf + human brain = Low IQ. Do the Math"
In Macomb County, the "Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families" took the lead. With a consortium of drug treatment centers, and the law enforcement group "Michigan High Density Trafficking Area" (HDTA) they a sponsored a seminar on June 11, to rally government officials, educators and policy makers as to the "Real Impact of Legalized Marijuana"
In early June, Chippewa Valley School Superintendent Ron Roberts issued an attack memo urging the Clinton Township Board of Trustees to stop canna businesses in Clinton Township, due to a serious threat to kids. The memo all but urged a no vote on marijuana legalization. School Superintendents in Fraser and Mt. Clemens sent the same type of letter to their elected officials.
On June 6, the "Genesee County Board of Health " egged on by HPM demanded the the County Board of Commissioners pass a resolution opposing legalized marijuana.
In my home area in West Michigan, the "Concerned Citizens of South Haven" led by by HPM and the "Van Buren County Substance Abuse Task Force" sponsored a forum called "Marijuana: The Other Side of Cannabis."
The program went on for two hours, but I left after 45 minutes.
The group demanded South Haven stop canna businesses from opening. They said marijuana in South Haven was a was a threat to the kids, a potential crime wave in the making and could bring a flood of homeless persons to South Haven, to score some easy weed. These experts went on to predict a wave of addiction, psychosis, domestic violence, traffic deaths and suicide, if marijuana was legalized. Only pre submitted written questions to the panel were allowed from the audience
So what is the real deal here? What is driving the venom and hysteria in South Haven and other places across the state?
The answer is two pronged: money, coupled with misdirected emotion
Some of the most zealous opponents of cannabis policy reform, are persons who have had substance abuse issues themselves or have family members in that situation. They believe by banning an object like cannabis (or alcohol back in the old prohibition days) they are striking a blow at the source of their problems.
They are wrong. Objects like cannabis or alcohol are not the cause of substance abuse. The problem lies within the individual person. For whatever reason, some folks physical or psychological inner workings make them prone to addiction, hence the term "addictive personalities."
As far as the money angle is concerned, forced rehab for marijuana is a very lucrative business.
Many persons who get busted for weed, offer (or are ordered) to enroll in a treatment program at their own expense. If not, they can face a stark choice. Jail, probation, community service, drug court, a criminal record, or all of the above in the here and now. This is a cash cow the rehab industry desperately wants to continue to milk.
It now seems all but certain, they will face a new world in Michigan beginning this November. At that time, the voters will grant consenting adults in Michigan the right to use cannabis. Just like they now do in Washington State, Colorado, California, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont.