Event Gives Insight into MI Legalize Campaign
(C. Proxmire, July 26, 2015)
“I am sick of this. I would like to be done defending marijuana users,” said criminal defense attorney David Rudoi as he and other legalization advocates held a Countdown at Como’s fundraiser on Saturday. “There are more important crimes being committed. People’s lives are being ruined because of a plant.”
Rudoi is on the board of Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative Committee, more commonly known as MI Legalize. He has worked with defendants in several communities including Southfield, Walled Lake and Holly.
In Southfield he won a case because a dispensary had sold medical marijuana to undercover officers. The staff had followed the rules, including checking for the state-issued medical marijuana card. “It’s entrapment,” Rudoi said. “My client did everything they were supposed to do, but they make these fake cards, out of the same materials they make the real cards, and there is no way to tell the difference.” He won but Oakland County is appealing.
In Holly a case made it to the Michigan Supreme Court. He explained that his client was the wife of a man who was legally permitted to grow medical marijuana. She lived with him, but she did not have access to his locked grow room. He got raided and was busted because the room had been closed up but not locked. Oakland County charged her too, because they found a post it note inside the grow room with her handwriting on it. They used this as evidence she was involved in the business. Rudoi argued that the post it note was actually paraphernalia and that someone providing paraphernalia for a grow operation cannot be held responsible if the purchaser does not follow the law. “It’s like if someone goes into a store to buy plastic buckets. The store can’t monitor that,” he said. “In this case, the law says that the grow operation must be locked and only the husband can go in there. So how can the wife be responsible for an area she is not even allowed to go in?”
Its cases like this keep Rudoi going. Not just because they are important cases historically as the justice system navigates the medical marijuana initiative, but because these cases are about real people.
“Even if we win, it’s not a victory,” he said. “Their lives are torn apart. They come in and destroy your home, take your stuff. They put you on bond any you have to report to probation, have to pay for drug tests and think about it, two drug tests a week and a case drags on for three years. It adds up…It’s the human toll.”
MI Legalize is mobilizing across the state to have marijuana legalization on the ballot. The initiative does several things:
~ Legalize all forms marijuana for adults 21 and older- including topicals, oils, and tinctures.
~Allow for adults to cultivate up to 12 plants.
~ Allow for the cultivation, possession, and otherwise processing of hemp and hemp products.
~ Grants medical marijuana patients & consumers additional legal protections.
~ Provide licensing to marijuana establishments and cultivation facilities.
~ Allow a ten percent excise tax on recreational marijuana sales that will contribute to state funds for education, transportation and a portion for local government, tax will not apply to medical marijuana patients.
~ Remove all criminal penalties for distribution, cultivation, and possession of marijuana with the exception of sale to an unauthorized minor.
~ Allow for civil infractions to be issued if the person is in violation of the act.
~ Protect consumers from search, seizure, and investigation by law enforcement for marijuana related offenses.
~ Authorize local units of government to adopt limited regulation of marihuana facilities and stores.
“We’re a month into it and we’ve raised over $200,000, and we’re getting volunteers statewide,” said Attorney Jeff Hank. “We all know that it’s not a matter of if marijuana will be legalized, but about who is going to make the rules… We’re the only authentic legislation effort out there. We’ve got this set up so that with regulation we’re bringing in money for the roads, for the schools and for local governments. This is based off what they are doing in Colorado.
“To me, this isn’t just about how can we get pot legalized, it’s a social justice issue. How can we do this in a way that helps everybody?”
When asked what some of the objections to legalization are, Hank said the number one concern he hears is from people who say “What about the kids?”
“The best way to protect kids is to regulate it,” he said. “When you have licensed establishments, they probably aren’t going to risk selling to minors. A drug dealer on the street may not check ID, and they may be pushing more than pot.”
He said that appropriate regulation can eliminate the risky black market. “Nobody’s going to buy moonshine anymore when they can just go to the corner store.”
The Countdown at Comos event raised money for the MI Legalize Campaign. Debra Young, who has led local ordinances changes on several cities including Ferndale, Hazel Park and Berkley, helped organize the $50 per ticket kickoff celebration.
“The event was wildly successful. Since Ferndale was where we staged our Oakland County legalization drives last year it was a natural choice this campaign also. We raised 96 thousand dollars on Como’s patio! We were so happy to have the endorsement of City Officials and prominent activists,” Young said. Two Ferndale City Councilpersons – Dan Martin and Greg Pawlica were among the speakers for the event.
For Roi, the fundraiser and others like it an opportunity to answer questions and show the public who is behind the movement. “There are some very professional people who want legalization. We’ve got doctors, attorneys, businesspeople, elected officials. A lot of thought has gone into this [petition].”
Young is excited to see the movement grow. “I have been working on this for several years now and the Citywide legalization drives were stepping stones to this final Statewide initiative. I believe that adults are capable of making their own decisions on Cannabis use. The majority of folks in MI agree with me. This proposal will also bring jobs and much needed tax revenue for the State and local municipalities. It’s important to me that the Cannabis industry is not overtaken by large corporations. Our bill allows the average citizen the opportunity to open a small cannabis business without the huge fees associated with liqueur businesses. More of a craft beer type of model. That is the American Dream of many… To open a business and support their families. It’s about freedom and fairness,” Young said.
Learn more about MI Legalize at http://www.milegalize.com/about_the_initiative.
Event Gives Insight into MI Legalize Campaign