by Rick Thompson, originally published in the February edition of ‘The Rolling Paper’ magazine
Many of you readers will remember the movie by the same name as my column this month. Spinal Tap is a legendary spoof on rock band behind-the-scenes films, in the same way Scary Movie is a parody of all the Halloween-based shock horror films. They are funny because of good writing, but also because their comedy is derived by twisting things we all have seen and know to be true.
Sometimes I think we are living in a Spinal Tap film about the state of Michigan and cannabis law reform. As in, the way events are playing out is just a mockery of the obvious. Extreme examples are portrayed as common behavior. Stereotypical characters. We’ve got it all.
Sheriff Mike Bouchard, for example, who is Oakland County’s ‘Baghdad Bob’. Remember Bob, telling the cameras that the Iraqi command had the war already won, while American troops closed in on the city in the background? Sheriff Bouchard tells the cameras that caregiving in Oakland County is bad, and cites examples of an explosion in a home and a smelly home cultivation operation. Yet behind him, the facts show that thousands of caregivers reside in Oakland County and operate without issue, every day, and have for years and years. The never-yielding, never evolving lawman is a classic stereotype featured in nearly all parody films.
Large-scale cannabis growers have lobbied the Marijuana Regulatory Agency to restrict the number of commercial cultivation licenses issued in Michigan. They know that more competitors means less market share for them, and a lower wholesale price for their product. Thing is, the MRA says they have no mechanism in law through which to limit them. So, why lobby for something they can’t achieve? As if a comedic side plot in a film, this looks like a classic case of sinister lobbyists leading their ill-prepared clients in an endless chase down imaginary pathways, all the while billing hour after hour and chuckling as they go.
Then there’s the oncoming assault on the caregiver system, planned for 2021’s legislative cycle. Those same ill-prepared large-scale cultivators struggle to find profitability, yet carry a top-heavy cadre of C-suite title holders whose salaries were based on corporate America’s standards, not the cannabis industry standards. Those business owners walked into a Michigan filled to the brim with unregistered sales of cannabis, and now, two years later, they complain that the world they walked into is too difficult for them to succeed. Instead of slicing those C-suite payrolls, the hand-wringing, flop-sweating businessmen will blame everybody else for their failures- the caregivers, the illegal market, the unfair regulatory framework, the uncooperative municipalities, the unkind podcasters and bloggers. I listen to these people talk, and it’s exactly like scripted dialog from the movies, where nobody takes responsibility for their own actions and everybody laughs at them for it.
The thing about movies is, eventually they end. The actors fade from the screen and the theater lights come back up. Reality is restored. You can laugh and remember the best parts while you’re eating dinner afterward, because it is in the past. In 2021, many of the drug war warriors are gone from the screen, but in the final third of the film, some stereotypical characters are still in speaking roles. I’m just watching it all go down, chewing on some popcorn, waiting for the theater lights to come back up.