FREE THE WEED 52
A Column by John Sinclair
Highest greetings from Amsterdam, where I’ve just returned for the summer until it’s time to come back to Michigan in August for the Michigan Medical Cannabis Cup festivities in Clio and around the Flint area.
As a native of Flint I take great pride in the long strides made there by the medical marijuana community to establish itself and secure its existence under the law, and in the citizens of the city itself for voting to enjoy legalized recreational marijuana in their community.
When I smoked my first joint in Flint sometime in 1961, I could barely comprehend that weed was illegal. It seemed like such a good thing—how could anyone possibly have anything against it? But it soon became apparent that the authorities claimed that marijuana was a narcotic and those who might possess it would be committing a serious Violation of the State Narcotics Laws (VSNL) subject to imprisonment for up to ten years.
For those who were committed to supplying their fellow smokers with small amounts of marijuana for personal use, charges of sales or dispensing the herb—no matter the quantity—carried a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence with a maximum of life imprisonment.
I suffered my first arrest for VSNL—Sales of Marijuana in October 1964, six months after I moved from Flint to Detroit to attend graduate school at Wayne State University. I had been an habitué of the Detroit jazz scene for three or four years before I moved to the city and I had some pretty good weed connections already, so when I settled near the WSU campus I was able to establish a nice little bag and take care of my friends and fellow students who liked to get high.
I sold a $10 bag to a friend of a friend in Jackson, Michigan who had gotten busted on a sales charge and got hooked up in an elaborate scheme directed by the Michigan State Police to find someone who would sell him some weed. I met this guy at a jazz club in Lansing, Sonny Adams’ Tropicana Lounge, and made the mistake of telling him I could help him with some weed if he ever came to Detroit.
In December 1964 I pled guilty in Detroit Recorders Court to a reduced count of possession of marijuana and was given a sentence of three years’ probation. But now that I was a known narcotics offender, my troubles with the Detroit Narcotics Squad were just beginning, and I drew a bigger target on my back for the police when I formed Detroit LEMAR in January of 1965 and began to agitate publically for the legalization of marijuana.
As I rarely tire of saying, that was 50 years ago and we’ve spent half a century struggling to legalize marijuana in the State of Michigan. For most of this period we’ve had to concentrate on getting the police out of our lives, and since the people of the State of Michigan had the good sense to pass the Medical Marihuana Act in 2008, those of us who qualify as patients can get our medicine from a friend-caregiver or across the counter at a compassionate care center.
The medical marijuana legislation we passed seven years ago is especially valuable in its concentration on growing for self or being taken care of by a grower who is licensed to serve up to five patients. Other forms of distribution are not mentioned in the Act, which would seem to leave the door open to all sorts of solutions from public dispensaries to traditional grass-roots distribution systems.
Since the institution of medical marijuana in Michigan, events have proved incontestably that there is absolutely no public danger from the sanctioned widespread smoking of the benevolent herb. Thus the public is ready to move on to the logical solution to the marijuana problem, which is to make it completely legal and available to all who desire to smoke it without legal or societal consequence, whether they want to grow it themselves or acquire it from others.
Marijuana smokers in Michigan have long devised effective means of obtaining and enjoying our medicine. We have taken care of it ourselves despite the insane efforts of the so-called law enforcement community to stop us from getting high. We have suffered their many forms of punishment and persevered none the less, emerging triumphant on the medical marijuana front and now making marijuana available to patients over the counter.
When marijuana is finally legalized in Michigan—hopefully in 2016, if all goes well—it is in the overwhelming interest of the entire marijuana community that current provisions for growing and distributing the weed remain within the exclusive purview of the marijuana community itself. Medical growers must be allowed to continue growing and distributing their herb as they see fit, devising whatever methodology that proves effective in terms of getting the weed to the smokers.
Medical marijuana patients must be allowed to continue the programs they are currently utilizing to take care of their needs. Recreational smokers must have a way legally to acquire their herb from individual providers or from public dispensaries. There must be no interference with these systems beyond some reasonable form of taxation as with all other products, and the police must be completely and totally removed from the cannabis community in all its manifestations.
The present situation is a smoker’s nightmare. So far there are three distinct groups agitating for their own form of marijuana legalization and ready to put their solutions up to the voters through the initiative process, potentially creating mass confusion and possibly causing the issue to fail to gain enough votes to insure legalization.
The traditional smoker’s interest is best served by the language contained in the proposition advanced by the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee (MILegalize or MCCLRC), whose petition has been approved as to form by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers. Organizers expect to begin collecting signatures in late June, launching their drive on the steps of the State Capitol on June 25.
MILegalize maintains that anyone over the age of 21 would be allowed to purchase, possess or use marijuana without fear of prosecution at the state or local level. The law would also apply to marijuana products, such as edibles. A person could transfer up to 2.5 ounces and consume on private property "or on public property as otherwise allowed by law."
Residents 21 years or older could grow up to 12 marijuana plants each, "in a manner so as to reasonably prevent unauthorized access to or harvesting of the plants." Home grown marijuana could not be made available for sale.
The proposal would not affect Michigan's medical marijuana law. Medical marijuana would not be subject to the proposed excise tax.
Under this plan retail marijuana sales would be subject to a 10 percent excise tax in addition to the existing state sales tax. Marijuana manufacturing, testing and retail sales establishments would be licensed by local governments, which would be responsible for establishing licensing rules, security requirements, and other regulations.
The MILegalize initiative is directed by Atty. Jeffrey Hank and other prominent marijuana activists and attorneys including Matthew Abel, Chuck Ream, and Steven Sharpe.
When someone asks you to sign a petition to legalize weed, make sure it’s from the MILegalize group and not the other two outfits, both of which are Republican Trojan horses for large-scale agricultural and pharmaceutical interests who have no history of advancing the cause of legalized marijuana.
Accept no substitutes! Free The Weed!
June 22, 2015
© 2015 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.