"Ultimately we have to move toward a permitted dispensary system in the state of Michigan."- House Representative Mark Meadows
This doesn't feel like a first blog to me. I've been writing on the issues facing Michigan for so long that a blog seems natural, not new. Read my bio to learn more about me; hit the Patch search bar and type in my name to see how I've been a newsmaker in the past as well as a news reporter. My role in the future will be a little of both again: I can't stay out of the fight for civil rights and that means stepping forward and raising my voice. In future blogs I'll give kudos to those that have helped me along the way and sling arrows at those that deserve to be deflated. Hang on tight because it's a wild ride when Rick's at the wheel!
Whenever possible, focus on the positive. I am blessed to be a part of two broadcasts every week that bring news and information to the public. Every Saturday at noon I co-host the Medical Marijuana Radio Show on 1310 AM with Steven Greene that focuses on connecting medical marijuana patients, caregivers and their loved ones with politicians, medical professionals and national figures to answer questions and address issues of importance. This weekend we were fortunate enough to have not one, not two but three Michigan House Democrats on the air discussing pending legislation that will change the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act itself, or other laws that directly challenge the way patients legally use cannabis.
I have previously met with both Reps. Irwin, from Ann Arbor, and Cavanagh, from Redford, in Lansing to discuss these issues. Both men also appeared on one of my other weekly broadcasts, the Planet Green Trees Show hosted by attorney Michael Komorn, just two days prior to the Saturday program. As a regular in-studio guest I was able to do a little talking but more listening (an under-appreciated skill in radio) and found these gentlemen to be interesting, insightful and open-minded. When Steve Greene told me he'd managed to get House Democratic Minority Leader Mark Meadows from East Lansing to come on our program with these two, I knew this would be a broadcast to remember.
It did not disappoint. None of these guys are pushovers: their responses were measured, thoughtful and strong. The message they communicated was one of change, both a change in their personal mindsets and a change in the perception in Michigan of cannabis patients. Read these quotes:
Rep. Cavanagh- "This enlightenment that I’ve had over the last six months of the outstanding benefits of marijuana... I’ve talk to numerous people that were on huge opiates and were reliant on those and they have completely severed the opiate use… this really has evolved and it is a medicine…"
Rep. Irwin: “One of the things I’d like to make sure we as legislators insert some language into law… if you’ve got patients, and they are bona fide patients and who are doing everything they can to act under the Medical Marijuana Act we should protect those people from incarceration first and foremost. There’s no reason that individuals like that should be going to jail. We’ve had a number of cases around Michigan where patients have been thrown in jail despite the fact that they did everything they could to obey the law and maybe had only technical violations…”
On the subject of Schuetteism in the legislature, these gentlemen spoke freely about obstructionist efforts.
Rep. Meadows- "The people of the State of Michigan have spoken. They said that medical marijuana properly used and distributed is to be legal and should be free from legal action, and to the extent there are people out there who wish to change that decision, that decision has been made."
Rep. Irwin- " The number one thing I would like to change is the Attorney General. The problem here is we have an Act that for the most part is fine as it is and we have a chief law enforcement officer in the state of Michigan who is trying to pretend as though the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act was never passed by a large majority of the voters…"
Rep. Cavanagh- "I know there’s people on the (House) floor that have an antiquated mindset and we’re not going to make any stage unless we enlighten our colleagues…"
This information about attitudes lends itself to questions about Lansing's plan going forward. Rep. Cavanagh has been involved in the workgroup designed to explore altering the MMA, and his insight into the evolution of the 'Walsh Package' of bills was a peek behind the curtain for many listeners. The original set of 8 bills has been pared down to "four or five," according to Cavanagh, and public testimony on these bills will be held next week or the week following. I specifically challenged the Democrats to provide the bills to the public at least two weeks before taking public testimony on them; an informed electorate is a public servant's biggest ally. Their response was that it was up to Republican Chairman Walsh to decide when the bills are released, the delay between that and the public hearings, and if these bills are to be considered one at a time or all at once.
One can only hope that Chairman Walsh from Livonia will do the honorable thing: release the language of these bills, let the public digest them, and then hold hearings that are not restricted and brief, like Senator Jones did to the people of Michigan during Senate testimony on his atrocious bill SB 017. Not all dispensaries are created equal; not all patients suffer from the same illness; and, let us hope, not all Republican Committee Chairpersons are as myopic as Jones was.