BIRMINGHAM, MICHIGAN- A former law enforcement officer told a Michigan radio program that "marijuana users do not cause trouble" and enacting legalization of marijuana could reduce property taxes.
Tony Ryan is a national speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a 501(c)(3) organization composed of criminal justice professionals from around the world who bear witness to the wasteful futility of our current drug policies. Ryan appeared on the March 13 edition of the Planet Green Trees Internet radio show, a weekly program with 190 broadcasts spanning three years. That show is hosted by criminal defense attorney Michael Komorn and features Chad from Birmingham Compassion Club, Jamie Lowell from 3rd Coast Compassion Center in Ypsilanti, and this author.
"I know NPRA flew you in," Komorn acknowledged, referring to the National Patients Rights Association. "You gave testimony to the Senate" during the Government Operations Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 11. That Committee considered two bills from the Michigan House of Representatives- HB 4271, the Provisioning Centers Act, and HB 5104, the Concentrates Bill.
In a previous TCC article, NPRA legislative chairwoman Robin Schneider said, "We have tremendous respect for the Prosecutors, Judges and Police Officers from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. We felt it was important for the Government Operations Committee members to consider their point of view and invited them to testify at the hearing. Tony Ryan delivered a moving testimony on the need for both bills from an experienced law enforcement perspective and we are very grateful for his time and wisdom."
DISPENSARIES AND CRIME
When asked by show host Michael Komorn about his position on medical marijuana dispensaries and crime, Ryan said, "I'm not sure that we (LEAP) have formed an actual opinion on that yet."
Ryan used the example of distribution of marijuana for adult use in Colorado, which began in January of this year. "Nobody's been robbed yet. It's been two plus months now and nobody's tried to pull a heist on them, in either the medical marijuana dispensaries or the 'marijuana for anyone over 21- stores."
"Do you think that, in order to effectively manage this from a regulatory standpoint, the marijuana growing needs to be centralized or do you think it can be decentralized as Michigan has with its caregiver system?" inquired Komorn.
"Some people are having trouble getting access to the marijuana that by law they are legally able to do that, so I'm not sure how that system actually works," Ryan said, based on his time spent speaking with Michigan residents. "Colorado set up a pretty stiff licensing thing including a pretty stiff, heavy fee to get your license, like $1800... to get the license to even sell."
"Do yo think that the dispensary model... is the (national) trend for both medical and legalization?" Komorn asked.
"I think that since nobody else wants to sell it... at this point in time I don't think you can mix it with any other kind of business... so what's left is authorizing stores," Ryan replied.
Ryan explained that dispensaries, which are referred to as Provisioning Centers in HB 4271, are places where patients can become educated by those who know the various marijuana strains- and their effects on the human body. "There are some people who've become real experts in the science of marijuana," Ryan added. "It's not just a weed growing out in the backyard somewhere, it's getting to be quite a science."
On the issue of marijuana and crime, Ryan told this story: "In my experience as a police officer, 36 years, 30 of them on the street and 26 as a supervisory or command officer of the street guys, I never got a call nor did I hear any of my troops get a call on the use of marijuana- unless somebody wanted to turn somebody in because they were mad at them, because marijuana users do not cause trouble."
The Michigan State Police took a contrary stance on the issue of organized distribution during the Senate Committee hearing. Read more about that testimony HERE.
LEGALIZATION, REGULATION AND CONTROL
When asked to give his impression of lawmakers and marijuana reform, Ryan said, "I think they are just flailing around, trying to figure out what to do next." In trying to keep pace with social attitudes, Ryan says lawmakers "are looking around the country and they are seeing that there are two states that have now legalized marijuana for adults... with a lot of regulation, which is what LEAP talks about... if you legalize it then you can regulate and control (marijuana)."
Once Washington's legalization program begins in July of 2014, Ryan said, "We'll have two states that are doing that, they have legalized and are regulating and controlling (marijuana). The governors are licking their lips over the tax income. Colorado is at least smart enough to direct some of that to schools as part of their Amendment 64, so it actually will help taxpayers in a number of ways."
One of those ways is a potential reduction in the property tax for Colorado residents. By funding schools directly, marijuana legalization "should help reduce the increases in property taxes, because that's where (school) funding comes from, usually."
Regulation and control of marijuana distribution was a central theme of Ryan's testimony to the Senate. Read more about that Senate session HERE.
ON SENATOR JONES AND SB 783
In addition to testifying before the Senate Government Operations Committee on March 11, Ryan also spoke with another former law enforcement official- Senator Rick Jones, the Republican leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former County Sheriff. Jones is noted for his multiple attempts to restrict activities allowed under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMA); he introduced two anti-patient bills earlier this year which would disadvantage MMA participants in landlord/tenant relationships and Child Protective Services cases. Both Jones and Ryan have more than 30 years of experience as cops; Komorn asked Ryan about the meeting.
"Charmie Gholson went there with me," Ryan began. "She exhibited a little surprise and said, 'Wow, he was nice to you.' Well, I said, cop to cop, I think it makes a little bit of a difference." Gholson is the founder ofMichigan Moms United, a pro-patient organization.
"I had an interesting talk with him. He didn't seriously object to anything I had to say about what's going on there in Michigan." Ryan said Jones was "fairly receptive, actually. He said he had problems with a couple of provisions. He had a real problem with something like 48 dispensaries along the one street there in Lansing," a commonly-cited misconception about the proliferation of dispensaries in the state capital in the early years of the MMA. "I said, we're talking about control and regulation, and that relates to that, but that doesn't mean you should keep it from the patients. They shouldn't have to go to the ends of the earth to get their legal medication," Ryan offered.
"Other than that, he was very pleasant."
Komorn asked Ryan about Jones and a bill he introduced, SB 783, which would give landlords the ability to ban marijuana use or cultivation in rental or lease properties. "He was pretty specific about people that come in and rent a house," Ryan answered. "They have hundreds of plants, he said, and it messes up a house. I said, That's a private contract between two individuals.' If a landowner doesn't want marijuana grows in his house, if they're the owner telling their renters, they can do that... If the renter doesn't like it the renter doesn't rent."
Ryan expressed concern about the methods Jones is using to achieve his goal. "I'm not sure it's the bailiwick of the state to give them extra provisions for that right, just about marijuana, because that kind of makes it look like your'e trying to... do an end run around people. That's what it looks like to me, because they already have the right to decide."
Ryan summarized by saying, "It doesn't seem like that's that big a problem that it needs a special law for that."
Read more about Senator Jones' bill SB 783 HERE.
Listen to the entire broadcast, and checkout the archive of shows, by visiting the Planet Green Trees website HERE.