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This Is What Democracy Looks Like - by Tim Beck

By Tim Beck: 
Chairman of the Safer Michigan Coalition

Everyone of the 100+ souls gathered at the Proposal 1 victory party November 6 at the Radisson Hotel in Lansing, handled the moment in different ways. When the results came in, there were tears, cheers, hugs, high fives and a sense of quiet satisfaction. It was the end of a very long journey for some of us.

For myself and my good friend super activist and entrepreneur Ryan Basore, who did time in federal prison for marijuana, there was no Christmas morning moment. It was just a sense of numbness, coupled with the anti climactic. Only until the next day did we felt a sense of relief, quiet joy and simple peace of mind. Maybe we were just too used to the struggle, and the seeming elusiveness of victory, that our emotional make up couldn't just turn on a dime.

Intellectually knew we were going to win. All legitimate polling said so. We had top of the line, nationally experienced ballot initiative experts managing the campaign. The best election law attorney's in the state had drafted the initiative language. If necessary, these lawyers were ready to sue or counter sue at a moments notice. Focus groups, and intensive, almost daily polling, indicated what our messages needed to say. We had all the money needed to outspend and figuratively carpet bomb our opponents. We had a vocal grass roots army fighting on the ground floor.

That said however, in any political campaign, even for the most seasoned veteran, there is always a nagging sense of fear and uncertainty. The recurring nightmare is that something terrible can happen at the last minute, even in the best of circumstances.

Fortunately our side did not have to spend millions. We simply matched our opponents dollar for dollar. We did not need to lie. We let the facts speak for themselves and responded to the hysteria being ginned up in a calm, factual and timely way.

Our focus tested message was clean and simple. One, marijuana prohibition for consenting adults does not work, anymore then the failed attempt to ban alcohol many years ago. Two, police resources need to be re allocated to deal with serious crime. Three, taxation and regulation of marijuana is in the public interest.

Our opposition was a cadre of interest groups, which included top law enforcement brass, the drug rehab industry, the Michigan State Medical Society, the Prosecutors Association of Michigan, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Catholic Conference, Dow Chemical Corporation, DTE Energy executives, Haworth Corporation, Gordon Food Services, the Detroit News, "faith based" evangelical Christians, and a shadowy group called "Project SAM" (Safe Alternatives to Marijuana). Based in Alexandria, Virginia, SAM is led by Baha'i religious devotee Kevin Sabet and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy who is the son of the late Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy and is in recovery for substance abuse.

Project SAM founder Kevin Sabet
Sophistry and fear mongering oozed from their lips, press releases and the TV screens, like toxic diarrhea.

Their strategy was to throw everything they could against the wall and hope that something would stick. Among other things, they predicted a massive spike in teen marijuana use (even though it would still be illegal for underage persons to use marijuana). They said there would be a big increase in addiction, crime, domestic violence, suicide, teen pregnancy, mayhem on the highway and a massive increase in auto insurance rates. They said homeless persons and drug tourists will flock to Michigan from all over the mid west. The state would become a dangerous, isolated, Jurassic island, where cops would be helpless castrati, unable to stop the onslaught of undesirables to come. Business interests declared it would be practically impossible to find anyone able to pass a drug test and a wave of debilitating litigation will result. Religious zealots warned of a decline in moral values, coupled with a new wave of "social permissiveness." The result would be agony for caring, God fearing persons like themselves.

However, as the meter continued running toward election day, the poll numbers never changed. It was indicated over and over that Proposal 1 had a solid 57% majority of likely voters prepared to say YES. The only demographic cohorts which were not in our corner, were persons over age 65 who had never used marijuana and those who identified themselves as "strong Republican."

That is when the opposition, calling itself "Healthy and Productive Michigan" (HPM) became increasingly shrill and desperate. A few days prior to the Tuesday vote, they began running a TV a commercial which was a proven lie. The ad featured three cloying toddlers. One of the children was a happy go lucky, Nordic looking white boy. He was paired with a light skinned black girl, with an Afro hair do and a beatific smile. The other child was a cuddly, doe eyed little white girl with brown hair. As the scene shifted to a playground, a number of kids were having fun. One was a small, dark blond white girl, dressed like a hippie from a by gone era. A stern voiced female narrator, intoned that "legalized marijuana allows ice creams, cookies and candies with unlimited potency, making its way into our schools and playgrounds, putting the lives of our children and grandchildren at stake."

The Bridge Magazine "truth squad" rated the commercial FOUL. The magazine correctly stated that under Proposal 1, "marijuana use would be legalized only for adults 21 and older. The law, if passed, forbids sales of pot edibles designed to appeal to kids or resemble candy that does not contain pot. It requires all marijuana products to have child-resistant packaging...and the state is required to set rules on maximum levels of THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana."

When pressed with the facts, two media outlets, WWMT TV in Kalamazoo and WPBN TV in Traverse City pulled the commercial from the air. These stations represented about 1/3 of HPM's media buy.

At the end of the day, our "Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol" (CRMLA) won with a decisive 56% of the statewide vote.

As for HPM, the only thing they could do was hold a a press conference the next day in Lansing. It was not a gracious concession speech. HPM leader Scott Greenlee and Project SAM founder Kevin Sabet proclaimed they were not going away. They threatened legal action and declared their main goal now, was to persuade local communities to ban cannabis businesses.

HPM Leader Scott Greenlee
Under Proposal 1, local communities do have the right to prohibit marijuana businesses. However, there is nothing they can do to stop adult possession or use, no matter where one lives or travels. Any adult has the right to grow up to 12 marijuana plants for their own personal use, no matter where they live.

Marijuana prohibition has come to an end in Michigan. That is settled law. Only a major court ruling or a 3/4 super majority of the Legislature can change that reality. The proverbial horse is out of the barn and it will not be rounded up.

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