Thompson recaps Michigan’s legalization win in Ganjapreneur podcast interview
Tim Branfalt is the host of ganjapreneur.com’s podcast series. His December 13, 2018 episode featured an interview with Rick Thompson of Michigan titled “Rick Thompson: Michigan’s Long, Winding Road to Cannabis Freedom.”
Ganjapreneur describes Thompson in this way:
Rick Thompson is a cannabis advocate, citizen journalist, and organizer of the Michigan Cannabis Business Development Conferences. His efforts helped see Michigan’s 2018 cannabis legalization initiative to a successful finish last month.
The podcast covers many issues related to Michigan’s cannabis scene: pending legislation in the 2018 legislative cycle, the role of citizen journalism in the advancement of social justice issues, a history of Thompson’s personal journey in activism. The main theme discussed by the Ganjapreneur.com team was an evaluation of what made the 2018 Michigan legalization drive a success.
The podcast has been transcribed. The following are excerpts from that transcription. The full text of the transcription and the full podcast can be found at: https://www.ganjapreneur.com/rick-thompson-michigans-long-winding-road-to-cannabis-freedom/
TG Branfalt: I’m super stoked. Before we get into the recent success at the polls, I want to talk to you about 2016. What happened in 2016, why did that initiative not end up even going to voters, and tell me what you learned from that experience?
Rick Thompson: In 2016, the MI Legalize tried to put forth a ballot proposal to put legalization on the ballot. We required 250000 signatures. We collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but we didn’t do it within a 180-day window that the Michigan law states that we have to use. Now there was a legal interpretation that allowed us to believe we could possibly prevail even outside that 180-day window, but during our petition drive, the legislature took it upon themselves to close that window and change the legislation. And as a result, the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan did not honor our request to get on the ballot.
So that’s what fueled our desire to get the legalization on the ballot in 2018.
TG Branfalt: And so tell me about the 2018 experience. From collecting signatures to actually getting it on the ballot to the success, walk me through your experience with that, from being a guy on the ground.
Rick Thompson: Well I’ve been on the Board of Directors of MI Legalize 2016 and then prior to that it was one of the principals of the Repeal Today movement, which tried to legalize marijuana in 2012. So in 2016 when we realized that we were not going to make the ballot, we started looking for additional sponsors in order to help us out. Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance expressed some interest in coming to Michigan to do a legalization initiative, but they wanted to wait until 2020.
We were able to convince them that 2018 was the right time for this movement in our particular state. We had the infrastructure, we had momentum going. And it was the synergy between the national partners and the local on-the-ground activists that was able to make our committee to regulate marijuana like alcohol group successful in our effort to put that legalization proposal on the ballot. But we had to learn by making some mistakes in 2016 before we could be successful with our ’18 campaign.
TG Branfalt: So earlier you had mentioned the coalitions and relationships that you had built in 2018. What is the sort of overall importance of building these relationships? And how do you overcome the different opinions when everybody has the same end goal?
Rick Thompson: Well, what we saw is that both sides, the national partners and the in state activist network were absolutely dependent upon each other in order to be successful. With MI Legalize we’d just seen in 2016 that our in state efforts by themselves did not get the job done. But we also saw in national races sometimes national organizations that do not get the support of the local community in the states that are trying to get legislation passed, and that turned out to be not successful too.
So we worked from a position of dependence on each other. We also eliminated people that were not willing to or capable of working in group scenarios with other folks. And then moved forward from that point. We had a lot of conversations and we represented a lot of different viewpoints in this issue with a smaller group of people that drafted the actual language of the proposal. There were some professionals, some folks representing interest groups, and then also a group of activists that were there as well.
And that’s one of the reasons why we have a proposal that has the most liberal possession limits in the United States, the most liberal cultivation limits in the United States on a personal level. Because we maintained involved in that process of drafting, and it also allowed us to retain our support base as a state-based community. Because we didn’t betray the people that put their trust in us to represent them properly in those negotiations.
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