Man, the people are really ready for marijuana to be legalized.
The crowd gathered at Northwestern Michigan College's Milliken Auditorium in Traverse City on Thursday night was overwhelmingly in favor of reforming our state marijuana laws. Some of the questioning became heated as area residents, still reeling from recent raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in the region, raised their voices.
The "Your Voice, Your Future Town Hall" featured a panel of four guests taking questions from the crowd on the subject of marijuana legalization. The speakers were Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor; Matt Marsden of Michigan Cannabis Coalition; Sheriff James Bosscher of Missaukee County, who has held the post since 1989; and Grand Traverse Prosecuting Attorney Bob Cooney, who serves on the executive board of the Traverse Area Narcotics Team.
The event hosts, Channel 4 and 7 News with UpNorthLive.com, are unbiased news sources.
The Town Hall didn't attract very many supporters of current drug policy; even the panelists were hesitant to support the war on drugs. When asked by the moderator if they thought the war on drugs was a failure or a success, both Rep. Irwin and Marsden clearly signaled their belief that it has been a failure, but neither Cooney or Bosscher were willing to claim it had been a success.
Much of the dialog included talking points about adolescent development and marijuana use, the dangers of driving while under the influence of marijuana, questions about how increased marijuana use will impact our societies. Rep. Irwin artfully countered with science, with a real world approach and by delivering lessons learned in Michigan and in other states with medical and legal marijuana.
Despite the upbeat crowd and the peppy faces of the news reporters, the event took on a darker tone as a result of raids against medical marijuana dispensaries and homes in a nearby county just days before.
Dispensaries are not clearly outlined in law through the Michigan Medcial Marihuana Act of 2008, but an estimated 200 operate around the state. The city of Flint recently licensed a handful of dispensaries, called Provisioning Centers, as have cities like Ypsilanti and Ferndale. Other communities tolerate the centers without sanction, some have for years.
Gaylord was one of those communities. Just one day before the Town Hall, Gaylord citizens were shocked when eight search warrants were executed on businesses and another eight served at residences.
After raiding the dispensaries and homes, law enforcement officials declined to force any of the centers to close and made no arrests, although cars, cash and cannabis were seized.
The two law enforcement officials on the panel were not greeted with warmth by the crowd, which included patients and employees connected to the dispensary raids. Some of the questions asked came from those aggrieved citizens.
Mostly, they asked why.
Why was my personal property taken? Why were the centers raided instead of closed in a civil manner? Don't you know that patients need their medication?
Although neither of the two panelists were directly involved with the raids, they both offered general responses to questions and did their best to not respond to the anger they heard.
The crowd contained representatives from the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Initiative (MILegalize), Michigan NORML, Americans for Safe Access- Michigan, Sons and Daughters United, Michigan Moms United and other groups.
Jamie Lowell, a Director of the MILegalize group, said local news media gave a commitment to cover a future Town Hall in Traverse City hosted by that organization. MILegalize has already held two town halls, one in Flint during April and the latest in Detroit in May.
Source: The Compassion Chronicles