by Rick Thompson/published on The Patch/Huffington Post network
Michigan’s medical marijuana community proves they are just like other service organizations- sometimes, they are even better…
What happens when mainstream meets new wave? Things change, paradigms shift, and society is better, improved, more in touch and involved. The medical marijuana community is that new wave that is rolling into, and changing, our definition of mainstream. Case in point: The Annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk 2012.
The Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. It’s a man-made wonder, 5 miles long that spans the connecting point between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and every year on Labor Day the Governor leads thousands of people as they walk across the bridge. This is the only day pedestrians are allowed to walk on the structure so groups, organizations and companies gather their people and make a big day of it.
Medical marijuana is mainstream, and we look like it. Fifty fluorescent green shirts walked the bridge on Labor Day, each one covering a medical marijuana patient, caregiver or supporter. We walked next to church groups with their blue shirts; we pushed a wheelchair-bound patient over the bridge alongside pink-shirted breast cancer fighters; we laughed with white-shirted corporate types and gave high-fives to camouflaged National Guardsmen stationed along the arching roadway. We were as one with the masses of smiling, happy humanity. We were mainstream, accepted as equals.
Medical marijuana is mainstream, with an eye to civic responsibilities. Labor Day is time for the annual Telethon for muscular dystrophy. Each year the MDA locks people up in mock jail to raise funds. MedJoint owner Kevin Spitler raised the most money in the Kalamazoo area this year and went on television to present an oversized check to the MDA officials during the Telethon. Medical marijuana outraised the Elks, the Lions, the Eagles and the Optimists. I wish Jerry Lewis had lived to see the day his organization would get a shot in the arm from a group of sick people, because I think he would have loved it. MedJoint has donated 2 tons of food to the local Loaves and Fishes Food Bank, proving again that medical marijuana supporters are interested in helping others more than they are interested in asking for help.
Medical marijuana is mainstream, in the election cycle. Labor Day in an election year also signals an escalation of campaign ads, reminding us that our vote is equal among citizens and is valuable to all parties. This year medical marijuana is on the ballot is four Michigan cities, just like funding for the Arts and electing House Representatives. Kalamazoo will authorize dispensaries in November, while Flint and Detroit will decriminalize possession of cannabis by any adult on private property. Ypsilanti will tell their police force that enforcing anti-marijuana laws will be their Lowest Law Enforcement Priority after November’s vote, just like K-zoo did last year.
Medical marijuana is mainstream, politically. Election year campaigning means the mainstream parties hold fundraisers for their candidates. The medical marijuana community held fundraisers this year for Rep. Mike Callton’s Political Action Committee (PAC), raising nearly $50,000. More fundraisers are planned for Callton’s PAC and cannabis law reform supporters like Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor. Money has been raised in Kalamazoo, Flint, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Detroit- the list goes on and on. September of 2011 saw 3,000 medical marijuana supporters flood the Capital Building in a giant protest that onlookers said was larger than many Labor demonstrations held on the very same grounds. When you can out-draw the labor unions, you are powerful.
Medical marijuana is mainstream, and like other groups we have our celebrities. Authors like myself, MINORML Executive Director Matthew Abel, 2012 High Times Detroit Cannabis Cup Girl of the Year Emily Aryn, co-founder of the state’s oldest dispensary Jamie Lowell, event coordinator and legendary activist Brad Forrester- all were all there. Mr. Lowell, Mr. Abel, myself and fellow activist Tim Beck are frequently quoted in mainstream newspapers on issues of civil rights and drug law reform. The traditional media gets their information from us, which means we shape the definition of mainstream with every interview and photo published.
Medical Marijuana is mainstream, and we communicate better than other groups do. There are five radio programs broadcast in Michigan weekly whose primary focus is medical marijuana and drug law reform, including the Medical Marijuana Radio Show I co-host on 1310 AM WDTW. There are four publications issued monthly in Michigan that service the medical marijuana community and are distributed state-wide. Every one of them is free; if you see the MMM Report or the Cultivator, pick one up. Read about us. You’ll find that we are just like you, only more bold.
Medical marijuana is mainstream, and we contribute to the government better than most other groups do. It costs $100 per year for most folks to be registered as a patient with the State, and we have 200,000 participants. Do the math. Now consider the licensing fees paid by dispensaries to cities like Ypsilanti, Burton and Traverse City, then add the payroll taxes on wages earned by employees of cannabusinesses in both peninsulas. Lawyers, doctors, carpenters, landlords, small businessmen, gas stations and restaurants- all receive the benefits of a mainstream medical marijuana community that is active and growing in all of Michigan’s 83 counties simultaneously.
Medical marijuana is mainstream, nationally. Never has a state been given the option of fully legalizing marijuana for their citizens. Never. This year, three states will offer that choice to voters, not because their state governments are benevolent and wise but because the people demanded it. Four more states will vote in November to expand or adopt legalized medical cannabis for their citizens, too. Polls conducted across the nation show that legalization of marijuana has risen to above 50% public acceptance- medical marijuana regularly polls at around 80% acceptance nationally- and that makes us more popular than country music. More popular than the President. Medical Marijuana Is More Popular Than Chocolate Ice Cream! What could be more pop culture than that.
Medical marijuana is mainstream, and if you aren’t in the stream of things you’re being left behind on the old, dead river banks. Our community accomplished all of the above without government bailouts, without tax abatements, without SBA loans or Kickstarter funds or even acceptance from local officials. Some of us even accomplish these feats while facing investigations or criminal charges from the very same government we seek to bolster and improve. Medical marijuana is mainstream, and like the flow of a river you cannot stop the water no matter how hard you try.