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Tim Beck - by MM Report Staff

Tim Beck

For the last couple years, the Lansing cannabis lobby scene was a hornets’ nest of drama. Numerous interest groups slugged it out to shape the Michigan Medical Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) and promote or defeat cannabis legalization. Entities like the National Patients Rights Association (NPRA), Michigan Responsibility Council, Keeping Pot out of Neighborhoods and Schools, Michigan Cannabis Development Group, Government Consultant Services, Inc. and a myriad of other business and law enforcement groups bitterly fought to mark their territory, and shape Michigan's cannabis future to benefit their selves.

With the passage of Proposal 1 those days are over--- at least for the moment.

As of this writing, there are only two organized groups seeking to influence the regulation of cannabis after the voters approved legalization in the November election. One of them, the "Michigan Cannabis Industry Association" (MCIA) is running ahead in the race for influence.

MCIA is directed by Lansing veteran Robin Schneider, who started out as a medical marijuana caregiver and grass roots activist ten years ago and rose to the top. Working with the National Patients Rights Association, she played a major role in the passage of the MMFLA in 2016 and went on to become Finance Director for the "Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol" (CRMLA) which spearheaded the legalization of recreational cannabis in Michigan.

Long time behind the scenes reformer and financier Andrew (Drew) Driver is Chairman, and Mark Passerini, owner the "OM of Medicine" provisioning center in Ann Arbor, is Vice Chairman. Josh Hovey Senior Vice President of the Truscott-Rossman public relations agency, who was the media spokesman for CRMLA, is Director of Communications. Board members are still being vetted, but they include representatives of all MMFLA licensed providers such as provisioning centers, secure transport companies, testing labs and large and small licensed growers. In addition the group has six paid staff members.

"We are looking to be the major player in Lansing when it comes to cannabis, just like the Michigan Restaurant Association and the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers are in their sphere...there is a big need for this. When we first opened our doors last year, the calls flooded in from everywhere." explained Josh Hovey.

Another organization called the "Great Lakes Cannabis Chamber of Commerce" (GLCCC) is also in operation. It seems to have gotten off to a slower start. Its leader Matthew Miner is also CEO of the Lansing based public policy organization "Capitol Strategies Group." Among other things this organization specializes in "association management" and hence Miner is the temporary head of GLCCC.

"We will be transitioning to a full time Executive Director in about six months" Miner explained.

"We just got a bank account set up and are growing our membership" which is "a small group" at this time. "We are about 40-50% formed."

"We are not representing out of state groups" he continued. "We are small business oriented."

GLCCC's  only major public pronouncement to date, was a demand that the Governor and LARA" put an end to caregivers supplying tainted medicine to medical provisioning centers."

Miner explained that there was nothing positive about contaminated medicine, and this has to change. He went on to explain that some of his members who spent thousands of dollars and went through bureaucratic hell to get their licenses were unhappy with some caregivers who are selling overages on the illegal market, and under cutting those who play by the rules.

“Caregivers are not going away” Miner declared, referring to the fact it will take a 3/4 super majority of the Legislature to change anything. "Some caregivers are very good" and he expressed the hope that more of them would transition to a legal methodology and perhaps "become micro growers" under the new legalization rules.

As far as social justice issues like asset forfeiture, expungement of past marijuana criminal records, and drugged driving, Miner said his group had an interest in that kind of reform too, and would deal with these things on a case by case basis.

As far as the year ahead is concerned, MCIA's Robin Schneider expects action in the Legislature to pick up in the months ahead, especially when it comes to the "drugged driving" issue.

She expressed great confidence in MCIA's ability to handle any potential threats. "We have strong funding behind us including national sources" she declared, "Our transparency, in contrast to some other groups, has been very appealing to the cannabis business community in both Michigan and across the country.”

She went on to say "in addition to promoting and protecting the business community, we are strong on social justice issues and intend to be pro active when it comes to asset forfeiture and expungement.” She went on to say that MCIA member Margeaux Bruner is now working with Representative Sheldon Neeley to draft legislation to help those with past convictions. She seconded Matthew Miners opinion that caregivers are on solid ground as a legal entity under the voter initiated law.

As far as GLCCC is concerned, Schneider does not perceive them as a threat and MCIA would be happy to work with them in areas of common interest.

"We are happy to work with other groups whenever possible" she said, explaining that MCIA is affiliated with the Washington DC based "National Cannabis Industry Association", the biggest national lobbying group in the USA.

She cautioned however, that the Michigan cannabis community should not expect any immediate changes in Lansing on anything. "The new administration has other priorities right now and cannabis is not at the top of the pile."

Assuming Ms. Schneider is right about a lack of cannabis legislative activity near term; many of us are just glad to just left alone for awhile. 

Such a situation is a welcome contrast to the bad old days, when Rick Snyder, Bill Schuette, Arlan Meekof, Tom Leonard and Rick Jones were running the show.

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