thankful graphic because we are thankful for cannabis legalization in Michigan

Cannabis Legalization in Michigan: A New Day

This piece first appeared in Rapid Growth as a guest blog on November 15, 2018

There are moments in your life when things happen and you always rememdrawing of Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, he is mentioned in this article about cannabis legalization in Michiganber where you were and what you were doing. Some memorable events are bad, like the Challenger explosion, the World Trade Center attacks, or the death of Jerry Garcia. And then there are the good, memorable events. I’ll never forget when same-sex marriage was made legal. And most recently when cannabis legalization happened in Michigan with the voter approval of Proposition 1. My business partner and I launched our firm, Canna Communication, in the summer of 2017, knowing we’d be working in medical cannabis for a couple of years, but were focused on the passage of adult-use recreational legalization. I spent election night in Detroit watching voting returns in a Jefferson Avenue law office, consuming cannabis with a few dozen other activists until early in the morning when we were sure we’d won. I proudly wore the heady scent of marijuana the entire next day.

Sometime in early December — ten days after the election results are certified — Prop 1 will begin to be implemented. For those of you that were hoping to go out and buy cannabis in a shop, you’ll have to wait for at least a year; that’s how long the legislature has to review and adopt the law.

The good news is, if you already have cannabis on your person, you’re not a criminal anymore, and that’s the most critical aspect of the passage of this law.

If commerce and tax revenue are the brains of ending prohibition, then decriminalization is its heart.

With the new law, you can grow up to 12 plants on your property without having a caregiver license. You can possess up to 2.5 ounces on your person. You can have up to 10 ounces in your home. None of this is a crime anymore. If you are a non-medical, card-carrying marijuana consumer, you no longer need to worry about trouble with the police if you have cannabis and let’s say, you are stopping for speeding. As long as you are NOT under the influence or using as you’re driving, the small bag of marijuana in your purse or pocket is your own damn business.

For people of color, marijuana law has always been unfair. According to the ACLU, people of color are arrested at a rate 3.7 times greater than white people, though whites, African Americans, and Latinx people use cannabis at the same rate. The war on drugs that we all grew up with was an invention of President Richard Nixon, not based on facts, but on his personal whim. It’s come to light that he moved cannabis to schedule 1 status to repress young war protesters and black people.

Consider this quote from John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic policy advisor speaking to reporter Dan Baum in Harper’s magazine, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, 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.”

How about that 10-ounce possession cap that has taken a few people by surprise?

Cannabis flower is light in weight, and 10 ounces is a lot of product, more than 200 joints depending on how you roll. Critics of the law say that’s too much. But, consider this: there’s no limit to the amount of beer, liquor, or wine you can have in your home, right? If you want a wine cellar with 200 bottles, a well-stocked bar, or a keg of beer in your home, it’s your right as an adult to do that. We need to think about cannabis that way, too. Just because you have you ten ounces, doesn’t mean you’re just sitting around consuming it all at once. Marijuana keeps well in a cool, dark, dry place, just like wine.

Cannabis Legalization in Michigan = Economic Gains.

Cannabis legalization in Michigan brings opportunities for businesses and jobs here and not just selling the plant. Because public consumption (smoking or vaping) isn’t allowed — not on the street, in a place of business, or in your personal vehicle — there should be opportunities for people to create private or membership-style spaces for consumption.

Popular in already-legal states are bud and breakfast accommodations, outdoor patios where people can consume, places for puff n paint events, party buses where people can consume while taking tours of growing operations and provisioning centers. In Colorado, Amsterdam-style coffee shops are popping up. In Aspen, Colorado, cannabis sales outpaced alcohol in 2017. Much of the potential cannabis tourism will be dependent on how Michigan’s legislature digs into the specifics of the law.

Marijuana activists still have work to do post-Prop 1. People need to stay in contact with or begin conversations with elected officials about how the law will be implemented. It’s likely that the legislature will attempt to over-regulate cannabis where it is able to do so. On the local level, we need to watch our city, village, or township meeting agendas for opt-in discussions. Just over 100 municipalities in Michigan are open to medical marijuana businesses at present, and many municipalities were waiting to see if legalization passed. The marijuana opposition has stated that its next effort is to stop opt-ins in communities. If you want to see Prop 1 enacted in your community, you’ll continue to need to make your voice heard. We need to work together, too, for expungement of prior marijuana arrest records and for the release of those serving time for minor marijuana crimes.

By the time of the next election, we’ll have lived with recreational cannabis in Michigan for about a year. There will be some speed bumps and rough patches, I’m sure. But like the West and East coast states that have already blazed the trail, the sky will not fall and Michigan citizens will see the benefit of new businesses, jobs, and taxes, not to mention the easy pleasure of marijuana consumption.

marijuana legalization in Michigan is approved by voters cannabis flowers like this one pictured will be legal to purchase by people 21 and older

Marijuana Legalization in Michigan: Our FAQs

Because we work in the marijuana business, we get frequent questions from people about what marijuana legalization in Michigan. Here are our thoughts and some data on the topic.

What is on the ballot?
Proposition 1 is a citizen-driven ballot initiative to end cannabis prohibition in Michigan. If you vote yes, it means you want marijuana to be able to be sold to adults 21 and older in Michigan. If you vote no, Michigan will remain a medical-only state.

Why are you supportive of the proposal for marijuana legalization in Michigan?
First, because adults can make decisions for themselves about what they put in their bodies, be it supersized soft drinks, whiskey, craft beer or tobacco or asparagus. We are able to make those decisions for ourselves and we should be able to do that.
Second, the prohibition of cannabis hasn’t worked. It created a large black market that exists to this day. People who don’t have a medical marijuana card can still buy marijuana, and even before medical marijuana became legal 10 years ago, it was always easy to find. Prohibition didn’t work with alcohol and it isn’t working with marijuana, either.
Third, the criminalization of marijuana unfairly targets people of color—as it has since Richard Nixon assigned it to schedule 1 in the 1970s. People of color are arrested at a rate 8 times higher than white people for possession of small amounts of marijuana. According to the ACLU, states spend about $3.6 billion each year enforcing marijuana laws. Nationally, more arrests are made for marijuana possession than all violent crimes combined.

What will Michigan look like after Prop 1, if it is passed?
In additions to pretty beaches, tourists soon might be able to visit Michigan for legal marijuanaSince communities can opt-in or out for medical marijuana, a similar policy applies to recreational marijuana legalization in Michigan. But communities will need to opt out. There won’t be provisioning centers in every community—only where zoning has been approved. We’ll probably see a bump in tourism—Michigan will be the first Midwestern state that is legal and there are lots of people who live close to Michigan. Expect that people will come for skiing, beaches, colorful leaves, fudge and cannabis. Under the new law, there will be small boutique growers, which is great for entrepreneurs. This ensures there will be a place for small marijuana businesses in Michigan. Cannabis microbusinesses will be small businesses licensed to grow up to 150 marijuana plants and process, package, and sell marijuana to consumers.

Can the legislature change anything that is passed?
No, that opportunity passed the legislature earlier this year. The proposal, which is about four pages long, stands as the law. We expect though, that how it is regulated will be where the government will step in and make rules.

Marijuana will still be illegal federally. How does that affect business in Michigan is this is passed?
It will still remain an illegal federal substance, so you can’t mail it or take it across state lines. Businesses will struggle with banking, taxes and standard business deductions, which are not allowed.

Will this increase the amount of driving while high?
It is illegal to drive high, as it is illegal to drive drunk. Some people will do it regardless of the law.

Will marijuana legalization increase drug use of other kinds?
The gateway theory has been well refuted and if you’re inclined to try other drugs, you won’t find them in a marijuana dispensary. That’s a black market issue.

Is marijuana addictive?
It has not been clinically proven to be addictive. It can be overused, like anything that gives a human being pleasure. Unlike alcohol or tobacco, it can’t an edible marijuana cookie bar, it will be legal for all adults if Michigan legalizes marijuanakill you. There are no known cases of cannabis overdoses. Overusing it—usually happens when people overconsume edible cannabis. The effect of edibles is slow to be felt and people tend to take a few extra bites and then, BOOM, an uncomfortable feeling comes on. But it won’t kill you. You might think you are dying, but you won’t be.

Can people be fired from a job for using marijuana if the drug is legal?
Yes. Company personnel policies supersede the law when it comes to drug use. If your workplace prohibits it don’t do it. This also applies to medical marijuana patients.

How much taxes will be collected?
Ten percent of all sales in an excise tax and the Michigan sales tax of six percent will be collected. It’s estimated $100-200 million will be raised and while much of it will be used for PTSD and veteran health research, schools, roads and in communities with marijuana businesses.

How much marijuana can a person legally have?
This proposal, if passed will make possession of up to ten ounces legally. You still can’t drive under the influence or use it on the street, on a beach or in any public place. People 21 and older can grow up to 12 plants in their home without running afoul of the law.

Can we learn anything from other states that have legalized?
It isn’t an easy road for any state to implement this kind of a sweeping change and citizens should expect that it will take 18 months to two years to happen. It will still be highly regulated under the rules that guide Michigan’s medical marijuana businesses at present. Those rules demand 24/7 surveillance/security of growing and provisioning stores, seed to sale tracking, secure transport of cannabis and products and identification and proof of age to purchase.

If you care about marijuana legalization in Michigan it is important that you vote on November 6.

A Michigan Medical Marijuana card

How to Secure Your Michigan Medical Marijuana Card

So you have a health condition that’s bothering you and you’ve read about medical marijuana as a solution. It seems like something you want to try, but getting started isn’t obvious. With 11 new conditions in Michigan that qualify patients for a medical marijuana card, there’s no better time to give it a try.

If you want a Michigan Medical Marijuana card, here are eight things you need to do or keep in mind.

  1.     Review the list of conditions. You’ll need a diagnosis that meets the criteria that Michigan has approved. While some are very specific, pain is more general and it’s the most common ailment on the application form according to the State of Michigan.allowable conditions in Michigan for a medical marijuana card
  2.     Download and print the paperwork from LARA, the state licensing board.
  3.     Make an appointment with your physician. One of two things will happen next. You’ll go to your doctor and s/he will sign the paperwork and you’ll write the check for the filing fee ($60) and you’ll wait about three weeks and your card will come in the mail if you’re approved. A more common scenario is you’re reluctant to tell your physician you want to try medical marijuana or if you do ask, s/he refuses to sign the paperwork. There are other options, including physicians that are cannabis advocates who work in clinics that do this work for the good of the cannabis community. You’ll meet with her/him for a short examination and they’ll confirm your diagnosis and sign the paperwork for you. If you have access to any extras—xray results, physician notes, physical therapy notes bring those along. You need to show that you have the condition you claim to have. Some clinics will send it in for you, too, but we recommend you do this yourself so you know when it was mailed. Finding a clinic is as easy as web searching for Michigan Medical Marijuana card +your location.
  4.     You’ll be asked on the form about a caregiver. This is an individual who grows cannabis for patients. If you don’t have one, don’t check the box. Check the box that says I will possess the plants. That doesn’t mean you have to start growing, but you could if you wanted to. With your card that says NO CAREGIVER on the back, you’ll need A Michigan Medical Marijuana cardto visit a provisioning center for your meds. You can find one close to you on Leafly or Weedmaps. We have a blog post about how to visit a provisioning center.
  5.     Your card is good mostly in Michigan. There are a few states that allow reciprocity, but not many. The recreational states are, of course, open to anyone. But if you’re in Florida, you can’t use your Michigan card there. In Michigan though, medical cards from other states are allowed in some, but not all provisioning centers. Call ahead to make sure.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind as a holder of a new medical marijuana card.

 

  1.     If you’re traveling, keep in mind it’s a felony to bring cannabis across state lines. So, you have to leave your medication behind. The safest solution is to enjoy some of America’s recreational legal states map of colorado where they have both recreational and medical marijuana(Colorado, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia) until the whole country ends prohibition You can also head to Canada for a nice vacation, the whole country will be recreational legal starting on October 17, 2018. This also applies to people flying. While the TSA isn’t looking for cannabis, it is still illegal to bring it across state lines.
  2.     If you’re traveling around Michigan, keep your cannabis is the trunk of your car. Better yet, put it in a locked box in your trunk. Never leave it out in plain sight on the seat next to you. 
  3.     You can’t consume (smoke) your medication in a public place, in your car or in a hotel/motel. That’s limiting for sure. Edibles are super handy for travel or find friends who don’t mind if you consume.
marijuana as medicine on s scale at a provisioning center

Look Like a Pro at the Marijuana Provisioning Center

You did it! You took the bold step and got your Michigan Medical Marijuana card. Congratulations. Now, what do you do? Most physicians don’t talk about that; some places will guide you, but for the most part, you are on your own to figure it out. We’re here to help.

Here are some tips to help build your confidence at the medical marijuana provisioning center.

  1. First off, you don’t have to go to a provisioning center, you can choose to work with an individual caregiver. Finding a photograph of marijuana flowers grown by a caregiver in Michigancaregiver isn’t as easy as walking into a provisioning center though. In all likelihood, you’ll need to know someone who grows cannabis and is accepting patients. If you don’t know someone, you’ll need to ask around. In Michigan, caregivers are limited to 5 patients so it can be challenging to find someone who is accepting patients. You’ll want to see their plants, as about their growing processes and talk with them about the strains you can buy from them. You’ll want a caregiver who grows and processes what you need. If you go the provisioning center route, below are some tips so you can look like you’ve been doing it for years.
  2. Be prepared. You’ll need your card, photo ID and cash. Expect security at the door of most places, sometimes it’s a camera system, others have a guard and others have a thick plexiglass window like the cable TV office. It can be intimidating, but your security is as important as the product they’re protecting. In most cases, you’ll be buzzed in and at that point, you get your ID and card back. The waiting areas range from comfy-cozy to spartan. Most have a TV and a few magazines, at the least. Many marijuana provisioning centers have ATMs, too.
  3. Do your research before you go. Both Leafly or WeedMaps are great resources for researching strains and getting information. Ask your friends about strains and products that they love. It’s good to have an idea of what you want, or think you want when you go into a provisioning center. You don’t want to be sold something that doesn’t help your condition. Read a few of the reviews and see if anything people are saying resonates with you.
  4. Not all stores are alike and you need to find a place you’re comfortable. Some carry a wide variety of products, others are very industrial, some just carry flower (the term for dried marijuana) offer chalkboard in a marijuana provisioning centerfew choices in edibles or tinctures or CBD products. You need to find a place that fits your needs, personality and buying style. Most marijuana provisioning centers post menus on Leafly or Weedmaps and from that, you can determine what you want to try. 
  5. Talk with the budtender at your counter. They should be able to talk with you about the health condition you are treating, the strains they have available and your preference for consumption. Feel free to ask questions and if they don’t know, ask if someone else knows. If they seem uneducated or a bad fit for you, feel free to leave. You aren’t obliged to buy anything.
  6. Expect your purchasing experience to be semi-private. After you clear security or the check-in area, you SHOULD be at a one on one space with your budtender, it’s likely there will be two or three counters in one open room and you should have one counter and one budtender to yourself. The counters all have the same products, so don’t be worried that you’re not getting something that someone else is. If you see something behind the counter that catches your eye, ask to see it. All of the products are going to be out of reach.
  7. You can ask to smell the cannabis flower which is usually in sealed glass containers. Ask the budtender if it’s ok, they’ll open the jar and let you smell it. Just don’t touch, it’s medicine and shouldn’t be contaminated with hand germs!three jars full of cannabis flower at a marijuana provisioning center
  8. You can buy just a tiny bit of flower if you want to try it out. Ask for a gram, that’s enough for a few joints (depending on how you roll) and it will give you an idea of what you’re getting and the effect. Cannabis is priced starting in grams and up to an ounce and the Budtender can tell you the prices, or it’ll be posted. Look for and ask about specials and other items that are available.
  9. Put your purchases in the trunk of your car after you leave the provisioning center. If you have a small lockbox, bring it for transporting. It’s a good practice.
  10. When you’re done, review your experience and tell others how it worked for you. It’s one way to give back to the cannabis community and to help the marijuana provisioning center improve their customer service and educate others.
pretty cannabis packaging on some chocolate

Be Amazing Inside and Out: Why Cannabis Packaging Matters

There’s nothing more appealing to a consumer than good packaging and fair pricing. Either by accident or intention, cannabis packaging in Michigan tends to fall short of that standard. We’ve seen bad knockoffs of popular candy brands, in both name and design and kid-friendly graphics. If the cannabis industry wants to be taken seriously, we need to present ourselves in a mature manner and product packaging and branding should reflect that.

When Michigan’s licensing entity LARA sent out guidelines recently about cannabis packaging, we were pleased to see that they are serious about making packaging unappealing to children.

Their cannabis packaging rules state:

No edible marihuana product can be in a shape, color, package, or labeled in a manner that it would appeal to minors aged 17 years or younger.

just say no to bad cannabis packaging like this lollipop
An orange lollipop with 35mg of THC.
an orange lollipop without childproof cannabis packaging
Easy to open by a kid or an adult.

No edible marihuana product can be associated with or have cartoons, caricatures, toys, colors, designs, shapes, labels, or package that would appeal to minors.

No edible marihuana product can be easily confused with commercially sold candy. The use of the word candy or candies on the packaging or labeling is prohibited.

An edible marihuana product must be in child-resistant packages or containers.

In Michigan cannabis is still medicine and is sold to adults (or to an adult for a card-holding minor). It needs packaging that acknowledges this but also remains appealing. Think about the over-the-counter drugs you might buy or herbal supplements. Those products have packaging that is professional, serious and not appealing to kids.

some child proof cannabis packagingCannabis edibles are an upscale product, they’re not inexpensive to purchase and the packaging should reflect the quality of the product contained inside. That’s not to say it has to be expensive or over-packaged, but it does need to be thoughtful in its presentation. People make decisions in a provisioning center based on several factors including price, a word of mouth recommendation, advice from the budtender behind the counter and the appearance of a package.

Studies show that the time slot in which a shelved product can capture the attention of a consumer is very short, one to two seconds. This is why it’s so important for cannabis packaging to be well-designed. You just don’t have that long to get someone’s attention.

good cannabis packaging from Northern LightsToday, brands across every sector are facing an increasingly competitive landscape and an increasingly sophisticated consumer. People tend to disregard mass brand communications in favor of more personalized messaging mediums. Packaging has the power to connect with the consumer to communicate a brand’s message on a physical and individual level.

How many times have you purchased a bottle of wine solely on your attraction to the label? Cannabis products should be thought of similarly. 

Smart packaging design is effective because, more than any other medium, it stays true to the product. It’s the main interface between a brand and consumer. Packaging conveys a host of messages that appeal to different consumers—both young and older, through elements of design such as naming, color, typography, graphics, structure and texture. We think Willie’s Reserve does this right.

cannabis packaging gone wrong, it's too attractive to kidsAn experienced designer can look at the product and create packaging that is sophisticated, appealing and true to the product inside. There’s really no reason that cartoons, colors and childish fonts need to be used in cannabis products. 

Packaging is part of a cannabis brand and being consistent is important.

Branding is one of the most important aspects of your cannabis business—whether you’re large, small, retail or business to business. Your brand is not just a logo, website, corporate identity or marketing collateral. It is your company’s personality. It’s your confidence, passion, action, voice, and set of values that make your company unique. Your brand needs to resonate with audiences in an emotive way. 

Quality cannabis packaging is a necessity.

Packaging design for the cannabis industry needs to be more than simply slapping a pot leaf or joint on a box. Now, more than ever, it’s critical to catch the consumer’s eye as the cannabis marketplace continues to evolve and competition grows.

If you need ideas or assistance with packaging design, Canna Communication can help. We understand the new Michigan rules and we know the art of packaging design.

a party horn with cannabis leaves, for when we will celebrate recreational marijuana legalization in Michigan

Recreational Marijuana in Michigan, Check the Facts.

After months of waiting for petition approval and possible pre-empting by the legislature, recreational marijuana will be on the ballot in Michigan this November.

There’s already plenty of discussion on the topic and as we head to the mid-term elections, it’ll heat up. When Michigan voters approve this measure (and it’s looking promising) we will be the 11th state (plus D.C) to have recreational marijuana. In addition to job creation, recreational marijuana will bring significant tax revenue to the state. Recreational marijuana will be subject to a 10 percent excise tax, on top of our 6 percent sales tax. The money will be used for schools, road repairs and local municipality uses where businesses are located. In Colorado for the first five months of 2018, $109 million has been raised in tax revenue. Michigan has a larger population which gives it significant revenue potential. Neighboring states including Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin have significant close-by populations that will contribute to our income.

We’re voting yes on the recreational marijuana proposal.

It’s important for you to be ready with facts to build a case for those on the fence. It’s important to be able to talk about why ending cannabis prohibition is good for our state and to understand the changes that will occur if approved.

Michigan’s recreational marijuana ballot initiative is complex and has a lot of interesting nuances. It’s based on the best of what the authors and lawyers could find in other recreational legal states. You can read the whole proposal on the Coalition to Legalize Marijuana Like Alcohol website.

We made a little video the goes over some of the key points of the recreational marijuana initiative and where people’s concerns might be. Canna Communication will be blogging about this for the next few months. Come back for more information.

 

 

a marijuana leaf, symbolizing michigan marijuana legalization

Why Michigan Marijuana Legalization is The Next Big Thing


Finally! The Michigan Board of Canvassers approved the signatures to move adult-use marijuana legalization to the ballot in November. This isn’t unexpected, though it felt the board was dragging its feet on approving this—the petitions for Michigan marijuana legalization were turned in last November and just approved in April. BUT, we’re not whining—we’re winning.

This is a Very Big Deal For Ending Marijuana Prohibition And Here’s Why.

Michigan, next to California is the most populous state considering legalization. California has a population of 39.5 million people and Michigan has 9.9 million residents. Keep in mind none of the other legal recreational states have a population the size of Michigan. Colorado has 5.6 million people, Washington 7.4 million, Oregon 4.1 million, Nevada 2.9 million and Alaska 739,000 and on the eastern side of the US: Vermont 620,000, Maine 1.3 million, Washington, DC 693,000 and Massachusetts 6.8 million.

Despite being a cul-de-sac state, we’re close to a lot of big population states and cities. Chicago, which is less than an hour drive away from our border has more than 2.6 million residents; and Illinois has 12 million people, Indiana has 6.6 million people, Ohio has 11.6 million residents and Wisconsin has 5.7 million residents. Added up, it gives Michigan easy access to 62 million people—who live within a half-day or less drive to the state borders. We certainly don’t think that all 62 million will flood in, but if the data holds, 52 percent of that 62 million might just stop in and check out our new industry.

summer in Michigan, soon a be a legal marijuana state if michigan marijuana legalization passesAnother thing that sets Michigan apart from other states that have adult use cannabis is that we are a major tourist state. A four-season tourism state. Pure Michigan spends $35 million on persuading people to visit our pleasant peninsula. Cannabis will be just one more reason for people to visit Michigan. We’ve seen models of cannabis tourism in Colorado, and there’s no reason to think that Michigan entrepreneurs won’t cash in on this industry. 

Michigan will be the first Midwestern state to legalize marijuana for adult use. It’s part of the normalization of cannabis that we’re seeing spread across the US. We expect the east and west coasts to be the most progressive and to imagine that Michigan will be the 10th state to legalize, well, that’s pretty exciting. It puts us in a league with other cool places like California, Oregon, Washington and Vermont. It also speaks to the hard work and will of citizens, gathering 277,000 petition signatures is no small feat and MILegalize and the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol deserve thanks for making that happen.

Michigan Marijuana Legalization Won’t be Easy.

Michigan’s marijuana legalization effort won’t be without a fight. There have been state-wide legalization efforts, like Arizona, which went up in smoke due to the well-funded opposition. We should expect a battle here in Michigan, too. Fighting against legalization in Arizona was pharmaceutical maker Insys and Discount Tire. They successfully moved public opinion against legalization. We understand conservative politics in Michigan and there’s no reason to think that well-heeled people won’t put their money behind stopping this. Just as supporters in Michigan have the Drug Policy Alliance and NORML as allies, the opposition is ready for the fight.

image of a cannabis leaf symbolizing michigan marijuana legalizationWe have public opinion on our side. From big national surveys like Gallup and Pew Research Center to Michigan’s own Epic MRA, we know that people are generally in favor of legalizing. This change in opinion comes from a few things. Medical marijuana is a great place to start getting people oriented to the plant and its uses. More often than not, people know people who have used cannabis for treating and illness. Between women who are fighting breast cancer and the effect of chemotherapy; to adults and children with epilepsy and veterans who are using cannabis for PTSD—there’s a growing number of people with medical marijuana cards—in Michigan about 218,556 cards. It means in all likelihood you or someone you know is using cannabis for one of the allowable ailments.  The more people that are willing to talk about consuming cannabis for health reasons, the more ordinary it will become to the people around them.

Science is also on our side. As more credible research is done and data is shared, we’ll see people begin to believe what we’ve known for some time—that cannabis is a helpful and life-changing plant. The recent findings in JAMA that showed a reduction in opioid addiction in cannabis legal states is one data set that we can turn to.

The Future is Bright, But we Need Everyone to do These Three Things.

1. Arm yourself with the facts and educate your neighbors, family and friends about cannabis. We provide factual information on this website and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Make sure your information is well-sourced, Leafly, High Times, The New York Times, CNN and Washington Post are great resources.

2. Support the cause with time and/or money. In Michigan, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, MILegalize and Michigan NORML will need not only financial support but volunteer help. too. It’s important that each of us do something. If you have time, give it. If you have money, give some.

3. On November 6, 2018, you need to vote. You need to make sure no matter what is happening that day that you get to the polls and vote for Michigan marijuana legalization. Help people get to the polls if needed. Make sure everyone you know if registered to vote.

It will take all of us to give Michigan the number 10 spot in the US—it’s a spot we deserve.

logo for our 420 event

Celebrating 420! How A Number Became Our Cannabis Holiday

People who are friends of marijuana know 420, or 4:20 or 4/20. It’s long been the code for cannabis, taking a moment to partake in cannabis medicine (if you’re in a medically legal state) or to just get high if you’re in a recreational state. So 4:20 can happen on any day at 4:20 PM or if you’re an early bird (or night owl) at 4:20 AM, but also on the day of 4/20, as in April 20. You can use it in a sentence, as in, “I’m going to step outside for a 420 moment.” Not too long ago, a friend of ours in the cannabis business was injured in an accident and his Go Fund Me page was full of $42.00 donations.

It’s a knowing nod to our shared love of cannabis and the fact that we’ve had to keep in under wraps for so long.

The history of the code word is clear, it began in California (where all cool marijuana things begin) with five friends at San Rafael High School and the search for a plot of marijuana somewhere on the Point Reyes Peninsula. The friends, also known as the Waldos met after class each day at 4:20 to search for the weed, which was never found. The idea of 420 caught on and has been a part of cannabis culture since the 1970s.

Communities around the globe celebrate 420—Denver has a big event each year, as does San Francisco, Seattle, Amsterdam and multiple locations in Canada. With more states legalizing adult use, the “holiday” will only grow.

In Michigan, there are a number of events, including MI420.

We are excited to bring author Bruce Barcott as the keynote speaker for MI420, a networking happy hour event for professionals and entrepreneurs working in or interested in the cannabis industry.

author Bruce Barcott who is speaking in Grand Rapids for 420Barcott is a Guggenheim Fellow in nonfiction and the author of the book, Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in AmericaSince late 2015 he has served as Deputy Editor of Leafly, the world’s most popular cannabis information resource. At Leafly, Barcott oversees the site’s news and cultural coverage and chronicles the global evolution of cannabis legalization.cover of the book Weed the People, the author is speaking on 420 in Grand Rapids

A nationally recognized journalist, Barcott’s features and cover stories have appeared in TIME, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Mother Jones, and other publications. His op-eds and short essays have appeared on CNN.com, the New York Times and the Seattle Times.

His Grand Rapids talk is titled:
Everyday Wisdom from an Extraordinary Industry: Ten Hard-Learned Business Lessons from the First Year of Legal Marijuana

MI420 Event Details

Special thanks to our amazing sponsors:

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marijuana stereotype, a person with a bong and a lot of flower

This will not stand. This marijuana stereotyping will not stand, man.

It’s hard to understand a stereotype until you see yourself as one. And for people in the cannabis business, we’ve got plenty of memorable stereotypes.

It begins with the 1936 film Reefer Madness where cannabis users were criminals and driven to sex and suicide by the plant. The marijuana stereotypes were dark and meant to frighten people. From all observations, the film financed by a church group was successful in continuing those stereotypes.reefer madness poster perpetuates marijuana stereotypes

The stereotypes of young people and black people as rabid cannabis users were perpetuated in the 1960s and 1970s and took a serious turn with President Richard Nixon who determined that anti-war protesters and blacks were working against his Vietnam War effort and marijuana was fueling the fire.

Recently, John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic policy chief, said this: “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.”  

This is how a stereotype becomes a profile. And we know the dangers of profiling.

Cheech and Chong’s 1978 movie, Up in Smoke is a classic stoner film that launched a series of pot-smoking comedies. It’s interesting though, that Reefer Madness was an anti-cannabis film and Up in Smoke portrayed marijuana as funny and harmless, yet both are enduring cultural entities that created and still perpetuate people’s views of the people who use cannabis.

marijuana user stereotype: the dudeOther films, including our inspiration for this blog title The Big Lebowski, Pineapple Express, anything with Harold and Kumar (and the list goes on) have helped further the stoner stereotype. You know, well, like, um The Dude, man.  People who use marijuana are lazy, forgetful, distracted, chill, unproductive and, almost always funny. Women often play secondary roles in cannabis films, usually as hot girlfriends of stoner dudes. Considering that 57 percent of women favor marijuana legalization and women comprise 36 percent of the leaders in cannabis, there seems to be some serious underrepresentation going on.

Late in 2017, the Netflix series, Disjointed was released. It’s a comedy about a female cannabis activist lawyer turned grower/medical dispensary owner. Her employees often partake on the job and they take their fashion cues from the 1960s and 70s. Right in the middle of medical and adult-use legalization in America, when cannabis is starting to gain some respect, we were faced with tired marijuana stereotypes. If you were to believe Disjointed, you’d think that medical marijuana dispensaries operate loose and fast with the law when it comes to checking IDs and smoking on site. People who work in medical cannabis are professionals and this scenario is far from the truth.

While Reefer Madness worked to make people fearful, Disjointed furthers the stereotypes of cannabis users and businesses in a way that doesn’t help our industry.

Here’s why marijuana stereotyping bothers us.

Cannabis is a serious business. It’s projected growth is expected to hit $21 billion by 2021. It is one of the most highly regulated industries in the US, even more so than pharmaceuticals and alcohol. People who want to operate cannabis businesses are subject to steep capitalization requirements, extensive police background checks and personal financial reviews.

We understand that Up in Smoke and Disjointed are fictional pieces. Humor and comedy are a great way to make people comfortable with something unfamiliar, but at this point in time, it doesn’t engender confidence in patients, those people who need cannabis for medicinal purposes. People with epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, those needing to alleviate the effects of chemotherapy or to lessen the trauma of PTSD count on marijuana medicine. The persona of red-eyed, slow-talking, smiling stoners growing or selling your meds needs to go!

A new picture of cannabis users and business owners is evolving and while we love The Dude, he’s a charming relic of our past.

the dude, a stereotype of a marijuana user

a green cannabis plant

The Cole Memo and Jeff Sessions for Dummies

Ok, first off. You’re not a dummy. But the announcement that Jeff Sessions is rescinding the Cole Memo is confusing, especially since more Americans accept the idea of legal cannabis and the country is moving toward ending prohibition. His action raised the ire of cannabis advocates, citizens in adult-use legal states, elected officials and people in medical marijuana states.

Here we go!

What is the Cole Memo?

It’s a document written by a James Cole, deputy attorney general in 2013 when times were good and Barack Obama was president. Without going into the weeds of legalese, it tells U.S. attorneys where to focus their marijuana efforts.

These efforts include preventing:

  •   the distribution of marijuana to minors
  •   marijuana revenue from funding criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels
  •   marijuana from moving across state lines 
  •   use of state-legal marijuana sales as a cover for illegal activity
  •   violence and use of firearms in growing or distributing marijuana
  •   drugged driving
  •   growing marijuana on public lands
  •   marijuana possession or use on federal property

It recognized that states have implemented laws to regulate marijuana and that those laws, for the most part, support what the federal government wants to see.

The memo tells federal staff to allow the states to police themselves. So over the last five years, all of the legal states wrote and followed their own laws regarding cannabis growing and sales. It gave the federal government the ability to focus on real criminal issues. This memo was important because of two things: it recognized the role of states in self-regulation and it acknowledged, tacitly, that the federal government had other priorities than chasing down cannabis businesses and it wasn’t going to spend funds on marijuana cases.

What did Sessions do With the Cole Memo and why?

Sessions rescinded the memo and is implementing a new policy. This one directs federal prosecutors to return to marijuana enforcement policy, overriding the laws in legal states. “Therefore, today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country,” wrote Sessions.

photo of the Hollywood sign in CaliforniaWhat this action does is give U.S. Attorneys the ability to prosecute adult-use marijuana businesses. Many of which just opened earlier this week in California.

We’ve known since before Sessions became the Attorney General that he hates cannabis, he has said that good people don’t smoke marijuana. He has always been a threat to the cannabis industry and now we’re seeing his wrath. The heart of the issue is the memo isn’t law and what we need now is legislation ending cannabis prohibition.

What Does This Mean for Michigan?

For now, we’re ok.

The bright spot in all of this, it is the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. It is a 2014 amendment to the federal government budget package three jars full of cannabis flowerthat’s up for renewal later this month. The powerful amendment, which has bipartisan support, protects states with medical marijuana programs. It prevents the federal government from using resources to prosecute people and businesses that are complying with the law in medical marijuana states.

What’s devastating about the Cole Memo action is that our effort to end cannabis prohibition in Michigan could be upended as we move toward adult-use on the ballot in 2018.  

What Can You Do?

Call your Congressperson and tell them how important it is to uphold the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. Here’s a script to follow and quick way to find your representative.

It’s time for all of us to step up our advocacy efforts and get involved (support with time or a donation) with NORML, Marijuana Policy Project and MILegalize.

Voice your support of cannabis and work against prohibition now.