Chalk one up for the boys in blue

i Sep 21st No Comments by

Michigan NORML Board Member
Brad Forrester

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Have you ever argued with a cop about how unfair a law is or that the cop was wrong for pulling you over? Maybe it was a seatbelt violation, a burned-out blinker or a failure to make a complete stop. You complained and the cop said, “look, I don’t make the laws, I just enforce them”. On Wednesday, not only did we witness cops trying to influence the law, we also saw them do it in an organized manner all across the state. It’s also worth mentioning that they were joined by prosecutors and public health officials to warn the public about the dangers of legalizing marijuana and how legalization would reshape Michigan’s landscape for the law enforcement community. And they’re right! It will reshape the legal landscape so that cannabis consumers are free to grow, possess, consume cannabis products without fear of arrest or prosecution so long as they conduct themselves within the limits of the law. And while they understand what’s about to happen, they’re not going to let it happen without a fight because the future of law enforcement, their inability to arrest people with cannabis will have a huge impact on the policies of every department across the state because in 2016, marijuana arrests accounted for 9% of ALL arrests that year! Readjusting to a new paradigm where it’s legal for people to grow and possess cannabis, a paradigm where 9% of your workload vanishes overnight, that will take time for members of law enforcement to accept, but eventually they will.

Opponents of legalization, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, public health officials, oh, and former Senate Majority Leader, the Honorable Randy Richardville, and an unnamed opposition group whose funding comes from Washington D.C.’s Project SAM, dominated one news cycle with 47 days to go before the election by implementing a well-designed and flawlessly executed event to oppose legalization. The second facet of this media blitz was an poll done by Target Insyght, commissioned by MIRS News Service and Governmental Consulting Services Inc. (GCSI) that showed the ballot question, Prop 18-1, down 41 to 47 percent. That poll contradicted most other polls including a very recent poll from WDIV/DetroitNews that showed Prop 1 with likely-voter support of 56 percent. The third act of their performance was a ginned-up report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area group that provided 176 pages of modern mythology about the impact of cannabis legalization in Colorado. They were armed and ready for battle, but what did they accomplish?

47 days left in a campaign is an very long time when you’re sitting on a comfortable, yet precarious lead. Did popo make up any ground in the polls with their lobbying? Maybe, maybe not. They may have shot their wad a bit too early, but we don’t know what the unnamed group has left in it’s playbook for the next 45 days and this could just have been the opening salvo from our opponents.

Cannabis consumers need to understand, we will face opposition, but we can not respond to every move they make with knee-jerk reactions. The Marijuana Policy Project, who is the primary benefactor for Prop 1, hired the best ballot initiative PR firms in Michigan, Truscott Rossman (TR). TR was founded in 2011 by Kelly Rossman-McKinney and John Truscott, who have more than 50 years combined communications consulting experience. Together they have individually been ranked the No. 1 and No. 2 most effective public relations professionals each time MIRS/EPIC-MRA has surveyed state Capitol insiders—in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013. The survey has also continuously ranked their firms as a whole as the top 1 and 2 most effective firms in the state in each of the years the survey has been conducted. We have to put our faith in TR at this point to make the right calls. I trust them and you should too!

So for the next 45 day, here’s what folks can do;

1) Make sure that you, your family members and all your friends are registered to vote
2) The last day to register to vote is October 9, 2018
3) Make a plan with family and friends to vote in groups and designate a driver
4) Learn more about cannabis and it’s social and physiological impacts
5) Talk to people about legalization at social gatherings and out in public
6) Leave comments and have discussions on social media
7) Pass out fliers and put a sign in your lawn or in the window of your business (as soon as available)
8) Buy a button to support our work
9) Make a donation to the campaign
10) BE READY TO VOTE YES ON PROP 1 ON NOVEMBER 6th!

Don’t be fooled by shoddy salesmen in crisp uniforms with brass buttons. Do your homework, read the posts on the Michigan NORML Facebook page, and make sure you educate your family and friends. Also make sure your circle of people are all registered to vote so they too can be a history-maker on November 6, 2018!


 

Legislative deceit and anti-cannabis fabrications mark the beginning of campaign season

i Jun 7th 2 Comments by

Michigan NORML Board Member
Brad Forrester

For 40 days and 40 nights, cannabis reformers in Michigan waited and worried about what our state legislature might do with the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol [CRMLA] ballot initiative that was approved by the Board of State Canvassers [BOC] in April. By law, after the proposal is approved by the BOC, the legislature has 40 days to approve the proposal or send it to voters. Thankfully, the legislature failed to adopt the proposal and now the voters will have an opportunity to determine if cannabis should be legal for adults in our state!

Reformers were concerned that the proposal would be adopted by the legislature and stripped of key protections such as home cultivation and possession limits. Incoming Senate Majority Leader, Mike Shirkey went so far as to state on Tim Skubick’s Off The Record program [8:25 on the video] that the legislature would also like to delay implementation of the proposal until after the federal government legalized cannabis, effectively subverting the intent of the proposal. Shirkey’s comments were very controversial and were not well-received by either cannabis reformers or legislators, but it was apparent to me (and a few others including some legislators) that his comments were inflammatory and produced the opposite result of what he was trying to achieve. He effectively torpedoed his own ship!

Current Senate Majority Leader, Arlan Meekhof, then launched a media campaign claiming to have enough votes in the Senate to adopt the proposal and he pressured the House to do the same. There’s was one gigantic flaw in Meekhof’s strategy, he didn’t actually have the votes in the Senate to adopt the CRMLA, and in fact, the Senate never voted on the proposal. My sources told me and MIRS News seems to confirm that the votes were never there in the Senate and that Meekhof was playing a high-stakes game of who will blink first. We didn’t blink and Meekhof lost in spectacular style! Chalk one up for the good guys for not blinking!

The examples above demonstrate that our legislators lied. They told flat-out untruths that were exposed and that’s what voters need to understand. You can not rely on information provided by legislators about cannabis to be accurate or even make sense in some cases because they are part of the organized resistance to sensible cannabis reforms. And, they have allies who are just as untrustworthy!

Two groups have formed to oppose the CRMLA, Healthy and Productive Michigan [HPM] and the Committee to Keep Pot out of Neighborhoods and Schools [CKPNS]. Of the two groups, the CKPNS is the most flippant, they oppose the proposal, yet they urged lawmakers to adopt and gut the proposal because in the words of their spokesperson, Mark Fisk from Byrum & Fisk Communications, “This ballot initiative, if passed by voters, will disrupt and dismantle the tough safeguards, local control and system of licensing, testing, taxation and accountability now found in the medical marijuana regulatory framework.” Mr. Fisk apparently has not read the CRMLA proposal because it doesn’t do any of the things he claims.

First, I’ll simply respond by saying, Mark Fisk is full of bovine feces! That statement is completely incorrect. The CRMLA proposal authorizes the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs [LARA] to develop a licensing structure similar to the structure established by the legislature for the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, but it eliminates the politically-charged Licensing Board that has been a bottleneck for that program. The Licensing Board is not a “tough safeguard”, it’s an unnecessary roadblock and it must be removed. It’s very important for voters to understand this distinction, and that our opponents, by and large, are liars.

In conclusion, our opponents are like the prosecutor from the movie, My Cousin Vinny. They are creating a narrative. They will give you facts that seem to have straight edges, that they appear to have the right shape, they will tell you these facts in a very special way so they appear to have everything a fact should have, but there’s one thing our opponents won’t tell you, when you look at the facts from the right angle, they are as thin as a playing card. All their facts are an illusion!

Don’t be fooled by slick salesmen in expensive suits. Do your homework, read the posts on the Michigan NORML Facebook page, and make sure you educate your family and friends. Also make sure your circle of people are all registered to vote so they too can be a history-maker on November 6, 2018!


 

Enjoy the ride and this beautiful day

i Apr 29th 1 Comment by

 

Michigan NORML Board Member
Brad Forrester

As we enjoy this fantastic Sunday afternoon, I can’t help but think about how far the cannabis reform movement has come, not only in Michigan, but all across our great nation. In just 191 days, on November 6, 2018, Michigan voters will finally have the opportunity to decide if cannabis should be legal for adults in our state. As a cannabis reform advocate with 10 years under my belt, it’s always nice to savor victory, but I also understand we have to keep grinding out this process all the way up to election day and I hope this blog encourages you to keep your nose to the grindstone as well!

Right now, cannabis advocates, supporters and consumers are celebrating a major milestone, achieving ballot access, and while we revel in our accomplishment, we must remain mindful of the task that still remains in front of us and that is victory at the polls in November!

I’ll admit, right now the situation looks rosy. Voter support for our proposal is up to 60%, we achieved ballot approval without any legal challenge from our opponents, the Board of State Canvassers unanimously approved our proposal and legislators don’t seem to have a plan yet to derail it! Those are all good signs and were the result of hard work, but every campaign is like a rollercoaster ride, they all have ups and downs and twists and turns, and you’re never certain you’re going to make it back to the platform until the car you’re riding in slowly comes to a complete stop and your seatbelt is removed.

And that’s exactly how we should approach the rest of the CRMLA campaign, like a rollercoaster ride. In reality, the coaster left the station in 2002 and for the past 15 years we’ve been twisted and turned inside out sometimes it seems. Today we’ve crested the last big rise and the station is finally in sight, but we have to remember to hold on tight for that last series of twists and turns because they are always the scariest.

There is only one legalization proposal in Michigan and it is directed by the Coalition to Reform Marijuana Like Alcohol. The Coalition is comprised of groups including the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Michigan NORML, MI Legalize, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Patients Rights Association (NPRA), the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, and the Marijuana Law Section of the Michigan State BAR. There will be no other legalization proposal on the 2018 general election ballot!

Unity is critical to accomplishing our mission! All the groups mentioned above must stay unified and maintain respect for each other throughout the campaign if we expect to win. Look what happened in Arizona in 2016. A coalition of groups similar to ours started a campaign to legalize cannabis in that state but ended up losing the election by 57,000 votes. Had just 1% of the no votes been yes votes, cannabis would be legal in Arizona today.

What happened? It’s simple. Arizonia never quite had the voter support our proposal has. The highest percentage of support that proposal ever received was just 50.4% and that was a month away from the election. Support for our proposal currently sits at around 60%. Additionally, the advocacy community there was sharply divided between the business owners and the cannabis community members against those cannabis businesses. In Michigan, we don’t have that dynamic because we currently have very few licensed businesses and they were not capitalized enough to try significantly influence our proposal’s language. In Arizona, opposition groups including Discount Tire, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and other anti-cannabis zealots then capitalized on these small divides and pumped $6.2 million into a robust anti-cannabis media campaign. Those circumstances all combined to result in a very disappointing and expensive loss for cannabis reformers. We can’t let that happen on our watch!

So again, please enjoy this beautiful day, but remember, we still have a big job ahead of us. If we’re going to win and scale back prohibition, we must stay in forward at keep moving at full throttle until November. Please stay respectful of each other, at least for another 191 days! And please donate to the campaign. Donating $20, $50 or $100 is the best thing you can do personally at this point to help! Also, make sure that you and all your friends and family members are registered to vote!

Please, help me win!


 

Repeal the 6% Patient Tax!

i Feb 10th 3 Comments by

Michigan NORML
Board Member
Brad Forrester

 

As many of you know by now, on January 18, 2018, the Michigan Department of Treasury issued REVENUE ADMINISTRATIVE BULLETIN 2018-2. This document spells out the State’s tax policy regarding new commercial cannabis businesses, patients and caregivers.

Among the conclusions Treasury officials reached and published in that document was the determination by the Department that the implementation of a 6% use tax applied to the price patients pay their caregivers for medical cannabis products was the proper policy. Below is the rationale the Department used to justify this new PATIENT TAX.

The GSTA and UTA exempt the “sale of drugs for human use that can only be legally
dispensed by prescription.” However, this exemption does not apply to the sale, use,
storage, or consumption of marihuana or marihuana-derived products because at the time
of the sale they are not dispensed pursuant to a prescription. Rather, a qualifying patient
presents a registry identification card indicating that a physician has certified that the
patient has a debilitating medical condition.

Essentially, the Treasury Department is saying that because medical cannabis is “recommended” and not “prescribed”, transfers between patients and caregivers are subject to a 6% use tax to be paid by the purchasing patient. They expect patients to add up all their purchases during the course of the year, multiply the total amount they paid their caregiver by 6%, and claim that total on your annual state income tax return.

Well that’s all fine and dandy for the state, but it sucks for patients! And did you even know about this change? Probably not. The Treasury Department didn’t send any announcement of this policy change to patients. The State’s Licensing And Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation (BMMR) failed to issue any new tax policy notification to patients. How were the 300,000 patients who participate in the program supposed to find out about this new tax policy?

There are a lot of questions for policy makers in this state regarding the creation and implementation of this new 6% PATIENT TAX, sadly they don’t feel the need to respond to patient questions. So to make sure that Michigan’s medical cannabis patients are heard on this issue, we have created an email campaign that will assist patients with sending an email to their state legislators and the Director of the Treasury about this important issue.

Next Monday, February 12, 2018, Michigan NORML will begin a campaign to REPEAL THE 6% PATIENT TAX, and we could sure use your help! The only way our legislators will even consider changing this policy is if we, patients and caregivers, flood their offices with calls and emails. Watch for our ACTION ALERTS about this issue and please take 5 minutes to send emails to your legislators and Treasury Director Nick Khouri. We can provide the tools to help you, but it’s really important now that you start helping yourself now. Please send the emails and make the calls, otherwise good people will face tax evasion charges because of this predatory tax policy.


Asset forfeiture victims needed for House testimony

i Jan 30th 2 Comments by

On Tuesday, February 6, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on HB 4158, a bill that would require a criminal conviction before members of law enforcement could seize, keep and/or liquidate property siezed in connection with an alleged crime.

I’ve been in contact with the sponsor of this bill, Rep. Peter Lucido, and he is seeking people who have had their property seized by overzealous members of law enforcement. He would especially like to hear from people who have had assets forfeited and who were never charged with any crime!

Rep. Lucido’s bill bans seizures where the victim was never charged with any crime and forces cops and prosecutors to obtain a conviction before they can keep a person’s possessions.

If you have been an asset forfeiture victim and you would like to tell our legislators your story, please contact me at bradforrester@minorml.org, or drop a comment below.

Thanks folks, and stay safe!!!


CRMLA petition moves forward

i Jan 28th 1 Comment by

On Friday, January 26, 2018, the Secretary of State issued the statement below with regard to the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. This statement indicates that an initial review of our petition forms and signatures has passed muster and will be permitted to continue. This statement also provides that, “the deadline to submit challenges to this petition will elapse at 5:00 p.m. on February 9, 2018”.

What that means is, the proposal looks good so far, the Secretary of State has reviewed some of our forms and signatures, and now our opponents have until February 9, 2018, to challenge our proposal in court. That’s how the process works.

We don’t have any reliable information that any specific person or group plans to challenge our petition in court, but it wouldn’t be surprising. The Michigan Responsibility Council, which calls itself “Michigan’s premier cannabis association committed to educating, promoting and advancing the study of legitimate use of cannabis health care”, is funding an opposition group called The Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools, and Scott Greenlee, President of Healthy and Productive Michigan, who is quoted in Metro Times as saying, “If an individual were on a street having one marijuana cigarette, those folks are just not arrested.” You can read more about Greenlee’s group here.

I don’t know if these people are naive or just plain mean-spirited, but they are wrong with their alternative-facts, they are wrong morally, but they have access to money and we shouldn’t underestimate what they might be capable of doing.

Here is the original pdf document.


January 26, 2018

An initiative petition proposing to authorize the personal possession and use of marihuana by individuals aged 21 years and older and control the commercial production and distribution of marihuana, was filed with the Secretary of State on November 20, 2017 by the Coalition to Regulate Marihuana Like Alcohol.

The Board of State Canvassers has established a uniform deadline for challenging signatures sampled from an initiative, constitutional amendment or referendum petition to elapse at 5:00 p.m. on the 10th business day after copies of the sampled signatures are made available to the public. (See minutes of November 8, 2013 meeting of the Board of State Canvassers.)

Please be advised that copies of the signatures sampled from this initiative petition were made available for release to the public on January 25, 2018. Therefore, the deadline to submit challenges to this petition will elapse at 5:00 p.m. on February 9, 2018.

Please contact the Bureau of Elections at (517) 373-2540 if you wish to purchase a copy of the sampled signatures for the petition.


Michigan NORML responds to Treasury Bulletin

Today, Michigan NORML sent a letter to all 110 members of the Michigan House of Representatives, and all 38 members of the Michigan Senate, expressing our concerns with the policy change outlined in the Department of Treasury Revenue Administrative Bulletin 2018-2. This new policy is a 180 degree turn from the policy issued 10 years ago by then Director of the Treasury, Glenn R. White, a document that has provided fair and equitable tax guidance to patients and caregivers.

Here are copies of the letter we sent today, and a copy of the past and current policy documents issued by the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Our Letter to Legislators

April 2011 Treasury Letter to James Campbell

January 2018 Revenue Administrative Bulletin 2018-2


Michigan Department of Treasury Issues New Tax Policy

As some of you may be aware by now, last Thursday, January 18, 2018, the Michigan Department of Treasury quietly issued a new policy directive stating that all transactions between a patient and the caregiver he or she is connected to through the MMMP registry, are subject to 6% Use Tax to be paid by the patient! That report is real and several Michigan NORML board members are aggressively seeking to rectify this horrifying change of policy.

First, we have coined this new tax, the PATIENT TAX, because it only applies to patients and we believe that terminology will resonate with the public. We are working with a large media outlet to produce an Op-Ed piece to help publicize this issue. We have reached out to our national partners for consultation and assistance, and we are steadfastly engaging legislators demanding that they act to correct this travesty.

Here’s what we know and how it could impact patients and caregivers

Is there is a new tax policy in place that may impact patients in 2018?
YES. On January 18, 2018, the Michigan Department of Treasury issued Revenue Administrative Bulletin 2018-2. (document attached) That document outlines new tax policy for cannabis businesses, patients and caregivers. One of the conclusions on this report states;
…a qualifying patient that receives marihuana from a primary caregiver is liable for use tax at a rate of 6% of the “purchase price” of the marihuana. Use tax should be remitted and reported annually on the qualifying patient’s Michigan Individual Income Tax Return (Form MI-1040).
They make their intent clear by providing this example;
Example 2. Carrie is a caregiver under the MMMA. Carrie provides marihuana in exchange for $100. Carrie is not liable for sales tax on the $100 since sales by caregivers under the MMMA are a non-taxable service. However, Paul is liable for use tax based on the purchase price of the marihuana. Paul should report and remit $6 in use tax for the use and consumption of this property on line 23 of his Michigan Individual Income Tax Return (MI-1040).
Will this change effect my 2017 income tax returns?
NO. This administrative change is not retroactive.
Will I have to pay 6% use tax on purchases from my caregiver this year?
MAYBE. This change is so new, nobody knows with any certainty exactly what it means just yet, but if this policy remains in place, then yes, patients would be required to remit a 6% use tax to the State when they file their annual income tax returns.
Will this change impact caregivers?
NO. Not directly according to this bulletin that also addresses a caregiver’s tax obligation. It states;
A registered primary caregiver under the MMMA “may receive compensation for costs associated with assisting a registered qualifying patient in the medical use of marihuana. Any such compensation does not constitute the sale of controlled substances.” Therefore, primary caregiver provision of marihuana and marihuana derived products in compliance with the MMMA is a non-taxable service and not subject to sales or use tax.

Please refer to the example above where Paul is a patient and Carrie is a caregiver.

You probably have more questions, but at this point, any answer we give would be purely speculation. Please be patient and be prepared to act when we issue an action alert.

Just so you know, we have offered a specific legislative solution to legislators who care about our issue and who are just as appalled by this travesty as we are. We are confident they will ultimately understand the urgent need to act and correct this gross miscarriage of tax authority. We are also discussing legal strategies in case this ends up going that far, but whatever happens, we won’t surrender on this issue and we’re going to need everybody’s help when the time to act arrives! Please be ready!

Brad Forrester
Michigan NORML Director of Social Media


Website upgrades continue

You may have noticed that our website is undergoing some changes. Over the next 30 day, our website will be transformed into one of the most powerful and useful advocacy tools we have!

Stay tuned!

EDIT 1/26/18 added image below.


Meet Brad Forrester

i Dec 6th 1 Comment by

Meet Brad Forrester