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So What's In It For Me? - by Tim Beck

Tim Beck: Chairman of the
Safer Michigan Coalition
The deadline for this column is October 22, and MMM Report will go to print shortly thereafter. It will hit the stands before the election on November 6, where the fate of cannabis legalization in Michigan will be decided by the voters.

While it is likely the measure will win, I'm superstitious about about proclaiming victory and speculating about good or bad things before the results come in. So during this brief, twilight space, I thought some readers may be interested in how this legalization movement got started many years ago and what I had to do with it.

 In the 1960's and early 70's, my fellow MMM Report columnist John Sinclair was Michigan's foremost marijuana legalization activist. Among other things, John endured hard time in Jackson Prison for marijuana possession. He inspired a movement which ratcheted down draconian punishment under state law for cannabis use. Ann Arbor, his home base, reduced marijuana possession to a $5 fine. Lot's of people realized the value of the herb because of John's work.

However, as the 1980's began and the Ronald Reagan era took hold, cannabis policy activism which resulted in immediate political change, went dormant in Michigan. A  new war on marijuana was declared by the US Government.

As someone who always liked herb since I took my first toke in a dorm room at the University of Detroit in 1970, where I later graduated magna cum laude and was elected student body president; this new era of government oppression was distressing. However, I felt helpless to do anything about it. I simply laid low, and focused on succeeding in the corporate health insurance business.

 At that time, I was sales manager for a local Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and my greatest sale was Detroit Edison. In 1988, I started my own company, "Michigan Benefit Providers Inc," which specialized in HMO sales and services to the business market. By the mid 1990's the company was so successful, I had the time, money and personal freedom to get back into the political arena.

Identifying with the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, I ran for State Representative in the GOP primary in Grosse Pointe in 1996, but did not win. I then became editor of the local  party newsletter for three years. When a new local board came to power, it was time find something else to do.

Intrigued by the success of medical marijuana in California, and hating cannabis prohibition; I studied the situation and decided to do a ballot initiative in the City of Detroit, to legalize medical marijuana under the city code.

An organization called the "Detroit Coalition for Compassionate Care" (DCCC) was created. I  was the only member and financier. Due to poor legal advice, we failed to make the ballot in 2002, but came back again in 2004. This time we won in the August city wide election with 59% of the vote. Grassroots politics expert Neal Bush served as campaign manager and State Representative Lamar Lemmons  played a key role in securing the signatures needed to make the ballot. Libertarian political consultant Tim O'Brien handled direct mail and imaging.

When the campaign began, my family got a brick through our window the day the opposition press release went out.

DCCC was condemned by Governor Jennifer Granholm, Attorney General Mike Cox, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press, the Michigan State Police, the federal "Drug Enforcement Agency" the "Partnership for a Drug Free Detroit" and various members of the  clergy.

Coincidentally that summer, Chuck Ream started his own medical marijuana ballot initiative in Ann Arbor independent of DCCC.  Ann Arbor won by an overwhelming margin that November.

With Detroit and Ann Arbor weighing in, new hope was given to those who wanted change.

I was elected  Executive Director of Michigan NORML by the membership and Chuck and I mentored successful ballot measures in Ferndale, Traverse City and Flint. Recognizing success, the Washington DC based "Marijuana Policy Project" (MPP), funded by billionaire insurance entrepreneur Peter Lewis, stepped up with $1.5 million and funded a ballot initiative which legalized medical marijuana state wide in 2008.

In 2009, Chuck and I formed the "Safer Michigan Coalition" with the goal of legalizing adult use of marijuana for any reason.  We created a state wide list serv for mature activists who wanted real policy change. Over the years we mentored local leaders both Individually and collectively; to use the ballot initiative process to legalize recreational marijuana in cities such as Detroit, Lansing, Flint, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Port Huron, Mt. Pleasant, Oak Park, Ferndale,  Berkley, Hazel Park and Pleasant Ridge.

In an independent effort, Michael Tuffelmire, Jack Hoffman and others legalized the herb in Grand Rapids.

Robin Schneider and the "National Patients Rights Association" worked with the Legislature to set up a medical marijuana provisioning system. They succeeded in 2016.

All of these efforts bore fruit again. In 2018, with assistance from MPP and a Michigan organization called MI Legalize, the voters will be weighing in on statewide legalization this November.

So why me?

Well, I believe my family and the local community I grew up in had lots to do with it.

I am the oldest of 8 children from rural Monroe County, Michigan. My dad worked in factories in Toledo and Monroe. My mom was a homemaker. They did the best they could with the limited tools they had. The community was isolated from the outside world and I was a non conformist. I developed a contempt for authority figures, bullies, hypocrites and the pathologically stupid. My goal back then, was to simply pull the rip cord and get out of there as soon possible. I got a full scholarship from the University of Detroit in 1970, and never returned to Monroe County.

To this day, I dislike most cops, prosecutors, clergy persons and hypocritical politicians. Fighting to legalize weed is a big middle finger to the worst of this lot.

Out of altruism and self interest, I've spent countless hours of my life and over $200,000 out of my own pocket on ballot initiatives, legal fees and donations to various politicians to put an end to cannabis prohibition.

 Prohibition for peaceful, consenting adults is intrinsically flawed. It is a waste of public resources. It has victimized thousands of decent persons for no good reason. My altruistic goal from day one, was to tear down this rotten edifice.

As for self interest, I love politics. Some people I know spend $200K on a boat. They like boating as much as I like being a political player and the subject of media attention. This issue has paid dividends over and over for many years.

At his stage of life, it is a great joy to see a new generation taking the reigns. Mainstream political power brokers, corporate interests and major candidates for Michigan Governor and Attorney General like Gretchen Whitmer and Dana Nessel  are are also stepping up.

Even President Donald Trump has been saying the right things from time to time.

It's all good.

Tim Beck and Family

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