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Anti-Marijuana Group A No-Show For Planned Protest Of Legalization Advocate Rick Steves

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Opponents of marijuana legalization in Michigan failed to turn out for a planned protest on Wednesday night, despite the promise of a “strong show of support.”

In anticipation of travel writer Rick Steves’s arrival in Michigan to discuss marijuana policy reform ahead of a vote on a legalization ballot measure in the state next month, the opposition dispatched a “special call to action” for fellow prohibitionists to show up and rally outside the event.

“Our big display of support is going to send a strong message: Michigan does not want recreational marijuana legalized in Michigan!” read the email alert by Amy Hawkins, communication director for anti-legalization group Healthy and Productive Michigan.

The call to action instructed attendees to fill seats at the free event in Ann Arbor, and to keep the planned protest “under the radar.”

“We do NOT want to tip our head to our opposition that we plan a huge showing!” the message said.

But Marijuana Moment’s publisher made the message public after receiving it.

In the end, not one person showed up to protest Steves’s legalization talk, according to attendees. Nicholas Zettell, an activist with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and MI Legalize, confirmed that no legalization opponents rallied in Ann Arbor nor at the travel writer’s prior event in Grand Rapids on Tuesday.

The Ann Arbor event was organized by SSDP and the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA), the main group behind the legalization ballot measure. It was attended by about 100 people, according to Zettell.

“We did not see a single protestor last night,” Josh Hovey, a spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, told Marijuana Moment in an email. “The crowd was very respectful and asked a lot of great questions.”

Healthy and Productive MI did not respond to Marijuana Moment’s request for comment about why their rally didn’t go as planned.

On November 6, voters in Michigan will decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use for adults 21 and older. The state currently has a medical cannabis program, which was approved by voters in 2008.

Steves, who hosts the PBS show “Rick Steves’ Europe,” is a vocal proponent of drug policy reform and has served on the board of directors of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) since 2003.

Zettell said that while he sees a lot of support for Proposal 1, the marijuana legalization initiative, opponents aside from Healthy and Productive Michigan have also organized to urge Michigan residents to “vote no.”

According to MLive.com, prosecutors, law enforcement, health officials and chamber of commerce organizations have cited the potential negative impact of legalization on children, driving safety and mental health via a series of press conferences across the state.

“It’s clearly going to change the landscape of Michigan,” said Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Kempker. “It’s going to change the landscape of our communities.”

A poll last month found that the state’s active and likely voters support the legalization proposal by a margin of 56 percent to 41 percent.

Voters In Seven States Will See These Marijuana Questions On Election Day

Photo courtesy of CarlosManzanoPHOTOs.

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Victoria Kim is a New York-based contributor to Marijuana Moment. She has previously covered drug policy for The Fix, Alternet and Opposing Views. As an alumna of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, she has tracked developments on the issue for 10 years.

Politics

People With Marijuana Convictions Should Know About National Expungement Week

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Marijuana legalization is a solid first step, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to resolve  socioeconomic and racial inequities brought about by the war on drugs.

Hence, we now have National Expungement Week. The first-of-its-kind campaign, supported by a coalition of cannabis and social justice organizations called the Equity First Alliance, is taking place from October 20-27.

The organizations will offer “expungement and other forms of legal relief to some of the 77 million Americans with convictions on their records,” according to the campaign website. “These convictions can restrict access to housing, employment, education, public assistance, and voting rights long after sentences have been served.”

In an open letter, the alliance also said it was “largely unsupported by the cannabis industry and by the traditional funders of equity work.” While a main argument in support of legalization is that it would help to repair drug war damages, which have disproportionately affected communities of color, the laws and markets created by the successful movement haven’t necessarily lived up to its name, the alliance wrote.

To that end, the campaign has organized events across the country—from Los Angeles to Boston—to provide legal services to those whose criminal records are able to be reduced or expunged. You can check out the full list of events here.

The alliance’s agenda touches on numerous reform policies, including using marijuana tax revenue to fund communities that have been impacted by prohibition, implementing social equity programs, ensuring corporate responsibility for businesses that profit off cannabis and providing affordable medical cannabis for low-income patients, among other policies.

“We believe that we have a short but vital window of opportunity to change the course of the cannabis industry—and by doing so, we can prevent further harms to the most impacted communities and create a model of reparative economic and criminal justice.”

Adam Vine, co-founder of Cafe-Free Cannabis and an organizer with the campaign, told Marijuana Moment that the campaign is necessary “because millions of Americans have been harmed by the war on drugs and continue to face collateral consequences for convictions that may have happened years ago.”

“These consequences restrict people’s access to employment, housing, education, and social services, so our coalition decided to do something about it,” he said. “We are coordinating these events to provide free legal relief and to say that as states move towards cannabis legalization, expungement needs to be the first priority.”

Marijuana Use Will No Longer Be Prosecuted In Manhattan

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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Chris Christie Finally Recognizes Marijuana Legalization As States’ Rights Issue

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Famously anti-marijuana former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) isn’t jumping on the pro-legalization train any time soon—but new comments suggest he might be softening his opposition a smidge, recognizing marijuana reform as a states’ rights issue.

Speaking at Politicon on Saturday, Christie took a question about his cannabis stance from YouTuber Kyle Kulinski, who asked him to weigh in on studies showing that states with legal marijuana programs experience lower rates of opioid addiction and overdoses compared to non-legal states. He was quick to dismiss the research, contending that other studies show the “exact opposite.”

“I just don’t believe when we’re in the midst of a drug addiction crisis that we need to legalize another drug,” Christie said, echoing comments he’s made as chair of President Donald Trump’s opioids committee.

Then he pivoted, acknowledging that some will push back on his anti-legalization position by pointing out that alcohol is legal. “I get that,” he said, “but I wasn’t here when we legalized alcohol.”

Kulinski seized on that point and asked the former governor if he’d vote to ban alcohol.

“No, I wouldn’t ban it. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and that’s a big, important argument about marijuana because once you legalize this, that toothpaste never goes back in the tube.”

Christie stood out among other Republican and Democratic contenders during his 2016 presidential run by maintaining that in addition to personally opposing legalization, he’d crack down on legal cannabis states and enforce federal laws nationwide if elected.

“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie said in 2015. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.

So it came as something of a surprise when the former governor went on to say in the Politicon appearance that “states have the right to do what they want to do on this,” signaling a modest shift in his anti-marijuana rhetoric. States should have that right even though, as Christie put it, “broad legalization of marijuana won’t, in my view, alleviate or even minimize the opioid crisis.”

It’s unclear what’s behind the apparent shift from hardline prohibitionist to wary federalist, but who knows… maybe Christie experienced an epiphany at a Melissa Etheridge concert he attended earlier this month.

Etheridge, who recently spoke with Marijuana Moment about her cannabis advocacy and use of the drug for medicinal purposes, reacted to a tweet showing Christie at one of her recent performances, where he reportedly knew every word of her songs and sang along.

Christie, for his part, replied that he “enjoyed every minute of a great performance and a truly wonderful group of fans.”

Hm…

GIF by #ActionAliens

Melissa Etheridge Talks Art, Culture and Marijuana Advocacy In The Legalization Era

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

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Politics

Marijuana Support Grows: Two Out Of Three Americans Back Legalization, Gallup Says

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Two-thirds of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, the highest percentage ever in Gallup’s ongoing decades-long series of national polls on the topic.

The new survey released on Monday shows that U.S. adults back ending cannabis prohibition by a supermajority margin of 66 percent to 32 percent. That’s more than a two-to-one ratio.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo courtesy of Jurassic Blueberries.

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