How Will we Celebrate The End of Marijuana Prohibition?

I recently received an invitation to my local community foundation’s annual donor event. The headline reads: “Something’s brewing in Muskegon County!” It invites patrons to “distill the essence of new frontiers in placemaking and economic development through craft beer and spirits.” The speakers for the event are the founders and craftmasters from three local breweries and a distillery.

We’re in!

Celebrating the impact of craft beer and locally distilled spirits is important. The craft beer industry is still booming and Michigan is fifth in the nation for breweries with more than 240 in operation and more than 40 distilleries. Craft breweries are the new corner bars of pre-prohibition times, places where people gather with friends and family to talk, play games, listen to music and drink locally made beer, cider and spirits.

By the time the 18th amendment was adopted in 1920, the alcohol prohibition movement was gaining steam across America. Led by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and other religious forces, the movement to take alcohol away from people began in the Midwest and spread quickly. From 1920 to 1933 all of America was under prohibition—people could drink alcohol, but the amendment prohibited making, transporting and selling of booze. By all measures, the 18th amendment was a failure and it was repealed. Bootlegging and blackmarket booze was rampant.

So, What does this have to do with cannabis?

four cans of Michigan made beerWell, it’s a similar story of prohibition and acceptance.

Marijuana prohibition came shortly after the repeal of alcohol in 1937. As it often does, the feds held hearings on marijuana law in the 1930s to “fact check” claims about marijuana inciting violence in black men and causing them to solicit sex from white women. These claims, which were taken as truth, helped create the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which banned the use and sale of cannabis.

The Act was ruled unconstitutional and decades later under President Nixon it was deemed even more dangerous and given its Schedule I designation under the Controlled Substance Act.

So prohibition continues. New product, same failure.

One day, in the future, we expect that cannabis will be standing in the same photograph of marijuana flowersplace as alcohol as an economic and place-making entity. According to ArcView Market Research, Michigan has the potential to have the third-largest state medical cannabis state market by 2020, just behind California and Colorado. It is expected that we’ll have $556 million sales that year. And this doesn’t project what might happen if/when adult-use recreational is implemented in Michigan, which could be as soon as 2020.

We heard an interesting statement from the city manager in Muskegon Heights recently. He projected the tax and licensing revenue from just 14 medical marijuana licenses could bring in at least $250,000 in the first year—thus erasing the community’s budget deficit.

In the future, when marijuana prohibition ends and Michigan sees the benefit of tax income, jobs and tourism from all marijuana sales (which tend to be bigger than expected, as in Oregon) we envision that cannabis entrepreneurs will be invited to the stage and celebrated for the positive community change that they’ve helped make.

reefer madness poster perpetuates marijuana stereotypes

We’ll Help With Your Marijuana Marketing and Propaganda

Yes, marketing and propaganda. That’s what was written on the LARA checklist for applicants seeking a marijuana business license in Michigan. Under the Step 2: License Specific Application Checklist, Business Specifications there is a box to check: Copy of Marketing Plan (advertising, propaganda, etc).

Marketing plans, we’re all about creating those. Advertising, we’re pros at it. We’ll get the word out about your medical marijuana business.

But propaganda, etc. Let’s talk about that for a minute.

MMFL Application Checklist
MMFL Application Checklist

Propaganda. What does it remind you of? Perhaps Adolf Hitler and the propaganda campaigns that came from his Ministry of Propaganda and Enlightenment. The Catholic Church used the word first in 1622 when it determined it would go forth into the world and begin converting people to its faith. The American government put resources in getting citizens fired up for the World War II effort, too. And we can’t forget Reefer Madness and all of that anti-cannabis propaganda that is part of our history.

The Latin root of propaganda is from propagate or spread.

definition of the word propagandaPropaganda is a word that’s generally negative; it’s about a single point of view, is meant to be persuasive and is often biased and misleading. It’s not a word that is used often or lightly. Synonyms for propaganda include: disinformation, hype, evangelism, brainwashing, inculcation, publicity, newspeak and hogwash. That’s not the work that we do at Canna Communication and we wonder why LARA chose this specific word for its checklist for licensees.

There are two things about propaganda to be considered. First is the intention of propaganda, the second are the tools of propaganda. The tools and intentions are mixed when they’re discussed, but they’re really two different things.

The intention of propaganda is to strongly persuade people to think or behave in a certain way. The tools of propaganda are still the tools of communication today, advertising, signage, posters, fliers, videos and news stories. New to the toolbox is the internet and social media.

Fake news is the new propaganda.

Canna Communication wants to help people understand the properties and power of medicinal marijuana. We want to promote good cannabis growing practices, show how high-quality edibles are made and safely consumed and we’re all about the use of the plant by interested adults. We don’t think using propaganda techniques is what licensing is about—we’re not forcing the use of cannabis on an unsuspecting public. We’re about honest communication, listening to the public and creating great content that attracts customers.

We’re ready to help you create your marketing plan for licensing and your company’s future growth. When it comes to propaganda though, we’ll choose the words more carefully.

7 Facts About Michigan and Marijuana You Need to Know

  1. Michigan has been a medical marijuana state for almost a decade. The proposal to give Michigan citizens the right to buy and use medical marijuana came to the ballot on November 4, 2008, the same
    Cartoon of the state of Michigan wearing a winter hat.
    If you seek a pleasant peninsula look about you.

    year that President Barack Obama was first elected. It was an overwhelming victory for marijuana in the state with 63 percent of voters filling in the yes bubble, and 37 percent voting no. There were more people who wanted medical marijuana than voted for Obama, who scored 57 percent of the votes.

  2. Marijuana is decriminalized in some Michigan cities, but not all. While the regulations vary, there are quite a few cities in Michigan that don’t punish people for having small amounts of marijuana. They include Ann Arbor, which decriminalized way back in 1972. Other cities with decriminalization include: Berkley, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint, Grand Rapids, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, East Lansing, Saginaw and Ypsilanti. Pleasant Ridge has an ordinance that makes marijuana possession a low priority for police.
  3. Ann Arbor’s Hash Bash is one of the oldest events in the country that
    Man dressed like Jesus at Hash Bash, giving away Michigan marijuana
    It’s a good day when Jesus gives you a joint at Hash Bash.

    celebrates cannabis freedom. The first event was held on April 1, 1972 and it’s been held almost every year since on the first Saturday of April at high noon on the University of Michigan diag. At Hash Bash you’ll find music, speeches and a group fire-up with about 10,000 other cannabis fans.

  4. If you want to be in the cannabis business in Michigan (as in applying for a license later this year) you’ll need to have lived in Michigan for at least two years and be of good moral character, actually, poor moral character will be held against you. If you have a grade school good citizenship award, find it now.
  5. Michigan pretty much has an average possession weight for its medical marijuana patients (2.5 ounces) when compared to other states. Hats off to Oregon for upping the average with its 24-ounce limit! As Michigan moves closer to an adult-use ballot measure and when it passes (November of 2018) people will be able to buy 2.5 ounces, too. Consistency is a good thing.
  6. Michigan has 218,566 card-carrying medical marijuana patients and 38,057 caregivers, aka growers. Proportionally the up north county of Montmorency (near the tip of the mitten and east of I-75 has the highest number of cardholders, with 45.1 of every 1,000 residents having a card to buy or possess cannabis plants. Just to the east and south a bit, Kalkaska County has 44.7 cardholders per 1,000 people. Ottawa County, they’re pretty healthy or a bit buttoned up when it comes to cannabis, with 11.8 patient cards per 1,000 people.
  7. In Michigan, our government spells marihuana with an h, as in marihuana not marijuana. This is an older spelling, which dates back to the 1930s and has a complicated and somewhat racist history from after Spanish-American War and resentment toward Mexicans and Mexican immigrants. Anti-Mexican propaganda and cannabis prohibition went hand-in-hand using the word marihuana instead of cannabis, which seemed more sinister. For Michigan, it’s simply consistent with the public health code, which uses an old-timey h instead of a j.

What’s Your Responsibility to the Cannabis Community?

Working in cannabis comes with responsibility to the cannabis community. For decades, people working with plants or just having flower on their person have been the target of law enforcement harassment; have been jailed and had assets and property seized. With this dark narrative, comes a responsibility for everyone working in the industry now to be a good citizen of cannabis.

Here’s how to improve your citizenship.

Know Your Cannabis History

Bob Marley wrote in his song, Buffalo Soldier: If you know your history, then you would know where you coming from. If you want to learn a little about marijuana’s colorful past, Wikipedia has well-cited page devoted to history. The historical section of the Pro Con website is comprehensive and easy to Weed the People book coverread. Two recently published books, “Weed the People” and “Cannabis Manifesto,” were written by a respected journalist and a noted activist and provide history and cultural context. The books also discuss the social justice issues around the criminalization of cannabis in communities of color. We’ve written our own short modern cannabis history here, too.

 

What Are The Marijuana Laws in Your State?

No matter where you live or travel, be smart about the laws regarding marijuana possession. Whether you live in a marijuana-hostile state, like Wyoming or are lucky enough to be in a cannabis-friendly place like Colorado or in one of 29 states where marijuana is medicinal or been decriminalized–know the law and your rights. There are cities, too, like Grand Rapids, Michigan where decriminalization has taken place within a state where non-medical marijuana is still a crime.

Carry a Card

If you live in a medical-only state, you need to have a card. Whether you visit your own physician or make an appointment with one who specialized in A Michigan Medical Marijuana cardMMJ determinations, this is an important step in cannabis citizenship. Having a card also helps provide the government with a accurate data regarding marijuana use; the more people with cards, the more power we have as a group. While we’re all for puff-puff-pass and trying other people’s personal favorites, you don’t do the business, the culture, or the community any favors by purchasing, re-selling or giving away medicine.

Oh, and it’s illegal, too.

Have a Voice

Join and support an advocacy organization like—NORML or the Marijuana Policy Project. They are our voice for marijuana choice on the state and federal level. Meet your local commissioners, state and federal legislative representatives. When action is being taken on cannabis in your community or beyond, it’s important to reach out in person, email or by phone to your elected officials and state your point of view. Reach out to those who oppose and support marijuana issue. Express your appreciation to cannabis-supporting legislators and educate opponents. And always vote.

Stand up For Marijuana

Letting people you know that you are a marijuana patient or a recreational marijuana user is a part of being a good citizen. It’s mentally liberating to come out. You’ll find when you start telling other people that you consume, that you’ll meet more people that do, too. Speaking up also helps you articulate your case for marijuana as medicine or adult-use. Not everyone is able to publicly stand up for cannabis, usually because of employment or family issues. You don’t have to come out on Facebook or be part of a social campaign, but be as honest as possible about your use. It’s helpful for people who don’t partake to stand with friends and patients who do. It helps normalize use and builds up the cannabis community, too

image of marijuana which is part of any new marijuana business

How Marijuana Prohibition Came to Be

GEE, ThankS, Richard Nixon

As much as we love science, we love history and the history of cannabis’ complete federal prohibition is quite new. Listing of cannabis as a Schedule I Drug was a 1972 political action from Richard Nixon who, among other things found the resistance to his policies and the Vietnam War, especially from people of color, women and young people, to be so galling that he thought the best way to fight back was to take away something people enjoyed. In brief, this is how marijuana became illegal.

When Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, it temporarily made marijuana a Schedule I substance an illegal drug with no approved medical purposes. It also acknowledged there was not enough information about marijuana to permanently keep it as Schedule I, they created a presidential commission to conduct research and make recommendations.

A Political Plan Gone Bad

President Nixon had some fairly strong opinions about the evils of marijuana. He believed that if he could appoint a commission with all the right people, he could prove the dangers of the plant and upend his opposition. Nixon appointed a Republican, Raymond Shafer, the former conservative Governor of Pennsylvania, as chair. The rest of the commission was stacked with law and order personalities from local, state and federal positions.

The Shafer Commission didn’t slack on its task. It created fifty research projects, conducted public polling; interviewed law enforcement and criminal justice experts and took reams of testimony. It still stands as the most comprehensive report ever written about cannabis.

The Truth Comes Out

The commission found that marijuana did not cause crime or aggression, nor did it lead to harder drug use or create significant mental or physical health issues. “Marihuana’s relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact on society does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it.”

And it favored complete marijuana decriminalization.

A furious Nixon denounced the commission, shelved the report and made a permanent place for cannabis as a Schedule I substance.

Recently, John Ehrlichman (Nixon’s domestic policy chief) spoke to Harper’s magazine. “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”