Sometimes the best things come in small packages; that old saw was proven true when the tiny town of Harrisville hosted a very big meeting of medical marijuana patients.
Harrisville is north of Oscoda, which is north of Tawas, which is north of Bay City. Meetings of the Northeast Michigan Compassion Club take place wherever opportunity provides, and on Saturday March 22nd that happened to be the Holistic Health Center.
Over 50 people attended, which itself would make this a big event: even in large cities like Detroit and Ann Arbor it is unusual to draw a crowd of that size for a Club meeting. The Holistic Health Center's generous front area was standing-room only when the guests began their presentations.
Club organizers Bethany Astrom and Kaye Kaiser both addressed the crowd, with Paul Pederson of the Center introducing a candidate seeking the Democratic nod for House of Representatives in the 106th District, Robert Kennedy. A former teacher in the area and a native son, Kennedy brought the message of restoring the per-pupil funding expenditure to something akin to the levels seen before Governor Snyder took office in 2011. His message of a government that twists legislation into something not originally intended was well-received by the audience.
Kennedy was followed by a series of speeches from Jamie Lowell, Brad Forrester, Kaiser and Rick Thompson, the author of this article. Local ballot proposals, pending legislation and the changing ways people can stay informed were among the issues raised. Questions were answered and answers were questioned by the crowd for more than an hour.
The evening's keynote speaker was Iosco County Prosecutor Nichol Palumbo. Palumbo had addressed the NEMI in 2012 at a meeting held in Oscoda. At that time she was a candidate for the office, challenging a 27-year incumbent Republican in a conservative part of the state. Palumbo, a Democrat, spoke at the medical marijuana gathering- an event that generated positive news stories in local media. Palumbo was elected that November by 58%-42% margin. She won "every precinct, township and city" in the County, according to the local paper The Iosco News.
Palumbo's duty is to act as the liaison between the public and the Courts, according to the Iosco county website, and in that capacity she performed well. She fielded questions about current law and patients rights, courtroom proceedings and the limitations of police. Palumbo expertly handled hypothetical scenarios tossed at her by meeting attendees and showed grace under pressure when people aired their grievances about past negative encounters with police officers.
"By far, the most problems I see... are with the transportation law," Palumbo told the crowd. She was referring to the 2012 law requiring all marijuana- including medical marijuana in its various forms- to be carried in an automobile as if it is a loaded gun, meaning secured in a case in the trunk or away from the driver if no trunk is available. "People have a big mason jar in their backpack on the seat next to them- that's not allowed," she told the crowd.
After the meeting officially broke up Palumbo stayed for an extended period to answer questions, despite announcing earlier that she had to leave. She was very generous with her time and was thanked for her work by Astrom and Kaiser.
As always, no cannabis was used, displayed, traded or sold at the meeting in accordance with the Club's longstanding policy. No date has yet been set for the next NEMI meeting.