Last week, Michigan police killed a pair of pro-marijuana bills. Two bills—one authorizing dispensaries, and one re-legalizing the use and manufacture of concentrated forms of cannabis–were ready for passage by the Michigan Senate on Thursday, December 18. A last-day telephone blitz by police chiefs and sheriffs from around Michigan discouraged some legislators into flip-flopping their vote, pulling the rug out from under the feet of activists and lawmakers who’d invested a great deal of time and money into advancing the legislation.
“I am extremely disappointed,” said Robin Schneider, Legislative Chairwoman of the National Patients Rights Association (NPRA). She and Lansing lobbyist Kevin McKinney have led the fight to have the bills passed during the 2013-14 legislative session.
HB 4271 was designed to create a statewide legality for medical marijuana dispensaries; HB 5104 was written as an emergency response in 2013 to a bad appellate court decision that changed the definition of usable marijuana, making it a criminal act to own non-smoked types of marijuana that had been legally used for three years by patients statewide.
“This is an example of the system behaving at its worst,” said Jamie Lowell of Ypsilanti’s 3rd coast Compassion Center.
HB 4271 began life as legislation authored by the Marijuana Policy Project in 2011 and sponsored by the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers, which disbanded in 2012. The NPRA has been the primary architect and driving force behind advancing the bills since then.
A Wednesday telephone blitz by marijuana rights advocates to the Governor’s office was met Thursday morning by the more selective calling campaign waged by the state Sheriffs, by all accounts led by famed anti-marijuana activist sheriff from Oakland County, Michael Bouchard.
One victim of the Bouchard negativity campaign: Rep. Eileen Kowall, R-White Lake. She sponsored the concentrates bill, HB 5104, but was so put off by the Bouchard intimidation that she abandoned support for the dispensary bill even though they two has been voted on together three times previously.
“At what point do I lose my faith in humanity?” asked Dave Fraser, owner of cannabis-related businesses in the Upper Peninsula town of Iron Mountain.
Assurances from the Governor’s Office that marijuana law reform would still be in play after the New Year were little consolation to those activists who invested time and money in support of the legislation. Jim Powers has an 8-year-old son, Ryan, who is a cannabis patient and depends on concentrated forms of cannabis to keep his medical conditions controlled.
“It is devastating to know that our 6-year-old son’s health and wellbeing is not a priority to our state or our law enforcement community,” Powers said.