Michigan’s Marijuana Ballot Initiative Campaigns Heat Up, Latest Finance Filings Show

Michigan’s Marijuana Ballot Initiative Campaigns Heat Up, Latest Finance Filings Show

Reports from Friday’s filing deadline for Michigan campaign committees show that, of the five committees formed to support or oppose the state’s marijuana legalization ballot measure, three of the groups are still actively receiving and spending money.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a pro-reform group, reported a total of $529,277 in contributions in the last three months. More than $460,000 of that (87 percent) came from three sources.

New Approach PAC, a national group that has supported cannabis ballot measures in other states in past election cycles, contributed $351,000 from August through mid-October. That’s in addition to a late contribution report filed on Friday 6 to the tune of $67,500. The PAC had also contributed $165,000 from May through July, 2018.

The national pro-legalization organization Marijuana Policy Project provided $110,000 this quarter, building on previous donations this year of $444,205.

The only donation of over $5,000 from an individual came from Rick Steves, a travel writer and cannabis reform advocate, who contributed $50,000. Steves has been attacked by prohibition groups for his efforts in Michigan and North Dakota. The remaining smaller donations came from 126 individuals.

Prohibitionist group Healthy and Productive Michigan (HAPM) reported contributions of $1,086,370. More than $650,000 of that came from the national anti-legalization organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). SAM also provided $128,338 worth of in-kind services in the last quarter, having already provided $500,000 in in-kind services previously in 2018.

Energy corporations and their executives were also heavy contributors to HAPM, with Michigan Energy First donating $250,000 to the cause. The chairman of DTE Energy, Gerard Anderson, donated $50,000—and Jerry Norcia, the company’s president and COO, donated $15,000. The president of DTE Electric, Trevor Lauer, donated $2,500, as did Mark Stiers, president of DTE Gas.

Other executives who made sizable contributions to HAPM include Meijer Grocery Vice Chairman Mark Murray, who donated $50,000. And J.C. Huizenga of Huizenga Group put in $51,000.

Beyond the $1.1 million disclosed in the October 26 report, the group provided individual late contributions of $125,000. $50,000 of that came from Business Leaders for Michigan, with another $50,000 from ITC Holdings. Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee donated $15,000, and billionaire William Parfet donated $10,000.

The group originally recorded a late contribution report that they had received $600,000 from AdVictory LLC. But the Associated Press’s David Eggert tweeted on Friday morning that the company had informed him this was a filing error, and that they had in fact been the recipient of funds to create ads for HAPM. The PAC reported $40,000 in payments to AdVictory in their July filings to the Secretary of State, but no payments in the October filing. In a revised contribution report, AdVictory was removed from contributors.

Three other committees showed little or no activity. Abrogate Prohibition Michigan said it had received $23 and spent $22. The Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools filed a report indicating they had neither received or spent any funds in the past quarter.

MI Legalize 2018, another pro-legalization PAC, reported that it had raised $22,319 in the most recent funding quarter. Unlike the other PACS, its donations came mainly from small donors. Mark Sellers, the Owner of Barfly ventures, which operates a set of restaurant and bars, contributed $10,000. Another individual contributed $5,000. The remaining contributions came from 106 additional individuals, who donated an average of $69.05 each.

As for how much the committees have left of the funds they’ve raised, two have substantial sums to spend. In its Friday report, Healthy and Productive Michigan declared that it had $697,268 left in the bank. With the late contributions reported, it potentially has $827,268 on hand to spend in the last week and a half before Michigan voters go to the polls. Meanwhile, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol reported $151,264 in the bank, so with late contributions, has $218,764.

MILegalize2018 disclosed a $9,462 balance, while the Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools reported $3,075 on hand. Abrogate Prohibition Michigan has spent everything it brought in, leaving them with $2.98.

In separate contributions that haven’t yet been officially reported, the Drug Policy Alliance also recently pledged $25,000 to the Michigan legalization measure, in addition to contributions to North Dakota’s legalization campaign and a half dozen candidates who back marijuana policy reform.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Michigan’s Marijuana Ballot Initiative Campaigns Heat Up, Latest Finance Filings Show

Marijuana Policy Project Welcomes New Executive Director

Marijuana Policy Project Welcomes New Executive Director

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the nation’s best-funded cannabis advocacy group, has named long-time social justice reform advocate Steve Hawkins as its next executive director.

Hawkins, who previously served as the executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) and executive vice president of the NAACP, will assume responsibility for MPP’s national legalization advocacy efforts just months before a number of states vote to enact their own legal systems.

The decision was made after a “months-long candidate search that included several exceptionally qualified candidates,” MPP said in a press release.

“We are still battling the effects of decades of anti-marijuana legislation and propaganda in this country,” Hawkins told Marijuana Moment. “Huge strides have been made when it comes to setting the record straight, but our work is far from over and there is still a lot of misinformation out there that needs to be addressed.”

“Fundraising and maintaining momentum is also a core challenge for the movement, which is in some ways a victim of its own success. Thanks to the major gains it has made in recent years, many people think legalization is inevitable and that their donations are no longer needed or that they don’t need to take the time to write their elected officials. These laws are not going to change themselves and there is more need than ever for resources and engagement to support federal and state-level reform efforts.”

Hawkins’s experience running successful criminal justice reform campaigns—including a bipartisan effort to end capital punishment for juveniles during his time at the NCADP—made him an apt candidate to spearhead the fight to end prohibition, Troy Dayton, chair of MPP’s board of directors, said in a statement.

“Steve has a strong track record in the field of criminal justice reform, and he knows how to build a movement toward meaningful social change,” Dayton said. “We were not only impressed by his expertise and experience, but also his strong convictions regarding the injustice of marijuana prohibition.”

“The country is moving in the right direction on marijuana policy, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Hawkins also previously held leadership positions at Amnesty International and the Coalition for Public Safety.

He told Marijuana Moment that his three decades of experience “defending civil and human rights” has informed his belief that we should “bring an end to marijuana prohibition, which has had a hugely detrimental impact, especially to communities of color,” and that we should “replace it with a more sensible system of regulation.”

“I also believe it is critical we ensure those populations that were so negatively impacted by prohibition are able to participate in and experience the positive impacts of such a regulated system.”

At MPP, Hawkins will succeed Rob Kampia, who late last year left the organization he founded in 1995 to start a for-profit cannabis policy consulting firm called the Marijuana Leadership Campaign. Kampia’s departure was announced shortly after sexual misconduct allegations against him resurfaced amid the #MeToo movement.

Kampia offered some words of advice for the next person to occupy his former seat in a phone interview with Marijuana Moment:

“View yourself as a fundraiser who has to engage in transactional fundraising with the marijuana industry in part, and view yourself as needing to come up with a smart, strategic plan for lobbying in state legislatures rather than doing ballot initiatives where no one else is going to touch it. Do not view yourself as a spokesperson.”

Or in other words, less of a focus on talk, and more on action.

MPP named Matthew Schweich as the interim executive director while the group scouted for a replacement. Scweich will now serve as MPP’s deputy director overseeing marijuana reform initiatives in Michigan and Utah.

In a statement, MPP board member Joby Pritzker said Schweich “provided critical leadership during a challenging transition period for MPP.”

“He maintained the effectiveness of our advocacy operations, managed our fundraising efforts, and oversaw ballot initiative campaigns in multiple states, while at the same time leading our staff and assisting the board with the executive director search.”

The past few years have seen a number of leadership changeups at national pro-legalization groups.

NORML brought on Erik Altieri as executive director in 2016 after Allen St. Pierre left the organization following 11 years of service. And last year, the Drug Policy Alliance announcedthat it had hired Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, who worked on international and domestic drug policies issues for 13 years at the Human Rights Watch, as the new executive director to replace retiring founder Ethan Nadelmann.

While the objective at all of these groups—promoting equitable drug policy reform in the United States—has remained the same, the nature of the movement has evolved. A majority of states have now legalized cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, and though state-level reform efforts continue, calls for change at the federal level are increasingly resonant.

That is to say, these new executive directors will face a different set of challenges than their predecessors did.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Marijuana Policy Project Welcomes New Executive Director

Lawmakers And Advocates React To Bipartisan Trump-Supported Marijuana Bill

Lawmakers And Advocates React To Bipartisan Trump-Supported Marijuana Bill

On Thursday, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced plans to introduce legislation to let states enact their own marijuana laws without federal interference, a proposal that President Trump told Gardner he supports.

Senators File Marijuana Bill Following Trump Pledge To Respect State Legalization

House members are filing a companion bill.

Here’s what other lawmakers and advocates are saying about the bill…

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO):

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV):

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA):

Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO):

Officials with Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, Taxpayers Protection Alliance and other groups:

“Though we vary in our opinions on marijuana legalization, the signatories to this letter are in strong accord when it comes to the matter of the level of government to which this question should be left. We believe the STATES Act appropriately addresses the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws without asking Congress to take a stance on whether marijuana should be legalized—Congress need only get out of the way of state legislatures and their voters, who are best positioned to decide questions about marijuana legalization. As noted, the undersigned groups believe this right must be restored to the states.”

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal:

“With the introduction of The STATES Act by Senators Warren and Gardner, the movement to end the federal government’s failed policy of cannabis criminalization has truly become a bipartisan effort. The majority of states now regulate marijuana use and more than six out of ten voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, making it time for the federal government to no longer stand in the way of this progress at the state level. President Trump made a commitment to Senator Gardner that he would support a federalist approach to state marijuana laws. Now Congress must do its part and swiftly move forward on this bipartisan legislation that explicitly provides states with the authority and autonomy to set their own marijuana policies absent the fear of federal incursion from a Justice Department led by militant cannabis prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

Don Murphy, conservative outreach director for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“The STATES Act is the most significant piece of marijuana-related legislation ever introduced in Congress. With its bipartisan backing in the Senate, it symbolically signals the eventual end of marijuana prohibition at the federal level. This legislation reflects the position President Trump took on marijuana policy during his campaign, and it comes shortly on the heels of the positive comments he made to Sen. Gardner. The president has a unique opportunity to get behind historic legislation that enjoys solid support on both sides of the political spectrum. While we look forward to the day when there is full acceptance of cannabis at the federal level, we heartily embrace the states’ rights approach proposed by this bill. As an organization, we have been at the forefront of changing state marijuana laws for more than 20 years. It is time for those laws to be respected by and protected from the federal government.”

Jolene Forman, staff attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance:

“The STATES Act represents a landmark moment in the movement to end the decades-long war on marijuana,” said. It creates a workable framework for approaching the future of marijuana policy. “The STATES Act is a first step toward ending the harms of marijuana prohibition. This bipartisan proposal clears the way for states to develop their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention. This will give states more opportunity to restore communities that have borne the brunt of the drug war and mass criminalization.

Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice program:

“This new bill introduced by Senators Warren and Gardner safeguards states’ ability to set their own reasonable policies about marijuana against the punitive and ineffective approaches preferred by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In the face of outdated federal policy, this bill defends the ability and responsibility of states to create and test the best marijuana policies for the American people, and will decrease the number of people in our country who are unnecessarily incarcerated.”

Veterans Cannabis Project Founder and Executive Director Nick Etten:

“This bill is an important sign of bipartisan respect for the will of voters across the country, but it does nothing to help the millions of veterans who rely on a federal VA health system that bans veterans from access to state-legal medical cannabis. Millions of veterans want legal access to medical cannabis as a treatment option and that won’t be possible until Congress and President Trump change federal law to remove cannabis from its current Schedule 1 classification.”

New Federalism Fund:

“We applaud Senator Gardner, Senator Warren, Congressman Joyce, Congressman Blumenauer, and the rest of the cosponsors for their bipartisan leadership on the STATES Act. Conflicts between federal and state law are creating untenable issues for the state-licensed and regulated cannabis industry. The STATES ACT amends the Controlled Substances Act to bring federal drug policy back into alignment with the 10th Amendment, allowing each state to determine the best cannabis policy for their citizens. This is as the Founders would have intended, making the STATES Act an important step towards a humane and constitutional federal cannabis policy.”

National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition and other law enforcement groups:

“The fact is, gangs and cartels have been making liberal use of legalization to provide cover for their illegal activities. These gangs have ties to Mexican, Cuban, Vietnamese, and Russian cartels. The gangs often purchase homes in residential neighborhoods, wire in extra electricity and water capacity, and convert them into multi-million dollar grow houses in suburban neighborhoods. These gangs are also trafficking in other illegal drugs, organized crime, and prostitution. Crime has been steadily increasing in Colorado in all categories since legalization, including violent crimes.”

Smart Approaches to Marijuana’s Kevin Sabet:

“Four years ago, as a member of the House, Cory Gardner voted against these very same provisions. Now that the pot industry has expanded in Colorado, normalizing use and advertising THC-laced candies to youth, he is singing a different tune. If enacted, this bill would pave the way for the commercialization of the marijuana industry and the creation of the next Big Tobacco. It is a shame that Senator Gardner has chosen to put political donations and expediency ahead of public health and safety. We are seeing communities across the country fight back and SAM applauds New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, and other states who have recently rejected Big Marijuana. We won’t stop amplifying the voices of families and individuals affected by these lax policies.”

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Lawmakers And Advocates React To Bipartisan Trump-Supported Marijuana Bill

Adult Use of Cannabis Doubles in 12 Years

Adult Use of Cannabis Doubles in 12 Years

A survey released by JAMA Psychiatry on October 21 revealed that the number of American adults who admit to using cannabis has doubled between 2001 and 2013. In 2001, only four percent of adults admitted to using cannabis. Twelve years later, in 2013, the number had increased to nearly 10 percent. Concluded the survey:

“The prevalence of marijuana use more than doubled between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013.”

Many media outlets have noted that increased use coincided with a more lenient attitude toward cannabis on the part of American adults and an increased willingness to legalize the herb. The most recent survey from Gallup regarding Americans’ acceptance of cannabis reveals that 58 percent support full legalization of the plant and the many medical and recreational products that can be produced from it. This is a significant shift. The latest polling numbers reveal that the nation has gone from a minority (48 percent) supporting cannabis legalization in 2013 to a majority supporting it only two years later.

adult-use-of-cannabis-doubles-in-12-years-1

In 2002, at the beginning of the period covered by the JAMA study, only one-third of Americans favored legalization of cannabis, according to the Gallup numbers. Many speculate that the successful examples of legalization set forth by states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon — and the resulting media attention devoted to these “experiments” — has begun to educate average citizens and has brought the topic into the mainstream. The JAMA Psychiatry figures obviously don’t account for this additional increase during the past two years.

As additional states come online and Canada screams its intent to the international community to legalize recreational cannabis within its borders, the topic of marijuana and its prohibition will become increasingly common in the media and on the minds of average consumers. This will encourage many to investigate the topic to learn the facts. Of these, many will conclude that cannabis is a safe and therapeutic herb that is considerably better than alcohol and opiates.

Increased use of cannabis and the economic and public health success of states like Oregon and Washington will continue to educate average Americans of the relative benefits of cannabis use, especially when compared to alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs and their negative, often life-threatening side effects.

Photo credit: Drug Policy Alliance

New York’s Restrictive Medical Marijuana Rules

New York’s Restrictive Medical Marijuana Rules

The state of New York recently passed its first medical marijuana law, and is currently defining the specific rules that will govern participants in this legal system. Feedback, so far, has been largely comprised of those who claim the law and rules are too restrictive.

The regulations are being scrutinized because the list of qualifying conditions is only 10 deep, and smoking the plant is not a legal method of consumption. Also, only 20 dispensaries will be licensed to serve the entire state, all of which will be controlled by just five organizations.

Progress is Progress

On the upside, any relief for those with serious disease or illness in the state is welcome. But can providing legal cannabis treatment for only 10 conditions and through only 20 dispensaries be truly effective?

After all, New York isn’t the first state to legalize regulated medical marijuana. California’s law, the first in the nation, was passed nearly 19 years ago. Critics cite that New York’s regulations impliy that it is one of the first states to do so and the clock has been turned back 15 or 20 years.

Gabriel Sayegh, managing director for policy and campaigns at the Drug Policy Alliance pointed out,

“The administration continues to operate as though medical marijuana programs have never been operated before. If we were having this discussion in 1998, one would understand the extreme caution. But it’s not the late 1990s, it’s 2015.”

Can New York’s highly pragmatic and unusually restrictive rules, in a nation where nearly two dozen states have passed considerably more lenient and open medical cannabis laws in the past two decades, deliver more help for patients than frustration?

Patients and dispensary operators may reasonably be confused by or protest some stipulations, like the fact that an electrician or carpenter servicing a dispensary would require prior written approval from the Health Department and a full-time escort when inside a dispensary — a requirement that will inevitably increase prices for patients. Also, the regulations contain strange limitations, such as the fact that consumption of any sort of food or beverage on the premises of a dispensary could be viewed as being in violation of the law.

121 Pages of Restrictions

The state has defended these tight restrictions, the draft regulations for which span 121 pages, by claiming that it wants to protect itself — and, by extension, patients — against “legal challenges and enforcement action,” referring to the federal ban on marijuana. Monica Mahaffey, the director of public affairs at New York’s Health Department, said the law ensures “appropriate access through comprehensive regulations and safeguards.” But again, this applies only to patients with one of 10 qualifying ailments (a considerably more restrictive list than those implemented by many other states).

Are the new regulations overly narrow and too comprehensive? Will “safeguards” ensure that millions of sick patients are denied access to medical cannabis, rather than granting them safe, legal access? Will the program be so restrictive as to fail, allowing politicians and prohibitionists to claim that there’s little demand or that such a system simply doesn’t work?

Closed-market Prices Too High?

Another major concern for potential patients is price which, unlike in an open market like Colorado, will be determined by a single individual, Dr. Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner. Because medical cannabis will not be covered by insurance, Zucker’s pricing may be prohibitive for extremely sick patients who are unable to work and may live on government assistance.

Ironically, this is the group that needs medical cannabis the most. If they can get better prices or more ready access on the black market, patients may find themselves in the exact same situation they’ve always faced: Breaking the law and having to purchase from street dealers.

Democratic Senator Diane Savino has admitted that the new regulations will be burdensome for many. “Is it inconvenient? Yes,” she said. Savino later elaborated,

“But what’s a bigger inconvenience is if we don’t have these tight controls and the federal government comes in and shuts down the whole program and disrupts the flow of product to patients.”

This is a logical stance, especially given the recent federal law enforcement activity of the Department of Justice and the DEA in progressive states like California and Washington. However, one must ask oneself if such strict regulations defy the spirit of the law, which is simply to provide safe access to affordable, legal medical cannabis for millions of sick New Yorkers.

The following are the only conditions which qualify a patient for a medical marijuana recommendation in The Empire State:

  1. Cancer
  2. HIV/AIDS
  3. Lou Gehrig’s disease
  4. Parkinson’s disease
  5. Multiple sclerosis
  6. Spinal cord damage
  7. Epilepsy
  8. Inflammatory bowel disorder
  9. Neuropathies
  10. Huntington’s disease

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