What looks to be Michigan's biggest medical marijuana expo to date is set for this weekend at the Suburban Collection (formerly Rock Financial) Showplace in Novi. Mostly sponsored by Michigan-based organizations — MINORML, the American Medical Marijuana Professionals (AMMP) certification clinic, Brighton Area Compassion Clubs, High Times magazine, and others — the Medical Marijuana Expo 2011, THC (treating health concerns) in Michigan seems to be a solid event with about 100 vendors. Big Daddy's Hydro and Metro Times have hosted smaller events of this nature before, but this one looks to take it to a higher level.
"Hopefully it will grow from this," says Tom French, expo promoter and owner of AMMP. "We're putting it on to educate the public and promote all of these local companies."
Indeed, the Friday to Sunday schedule is packed with demonstrations, classes and speakers such as Tim Beck, who helped write Michigan's medical marijuana law, giving some insight into the process. Doug Orton of Oakland County NORML will address methods of ingestion, and the Rev. Steve Thompson of MINORML will discuss coming out of the closet with marijuana. Mike Whitty is to take on the psychological and spiritual benefits of cannabis. Those are just some of the speakers. Classes and demonstrations cover things like edible medications, growing, harvesting and activism. Dr. Dean Fior of AMMP will host an "ask the doctor" session.
There should be a very interesting mix of people at the Suburban Collection. The medical marijuana expo is in Hall A. Novi High School has a fundraiser scheduled for the American Cancer Society in Hall B, and there's a gun and knife show in Hall C. It doesn't get any better for the survivalist cancer patients who want to grow their own medicine back in the woods while hunting.
In addition to being an industry expo, the event raises the profile of the medical marijuana community in the public eye. It's the kind of thing people who attended a two-day activist training by Americans for Safe Access in February see as an opportunity to help the cause in Michigan. Michelle Selzer, who lives on the western side of the state but didn't want to give her exact location, took the activist training and plans on working at the ASA booth during the expo.
"I consider myself a volunteer patient advocate," says Selzer. "I've been following the medical marijuana movement since the act went into effect a couple of years ago. I have friends and family who are patients and caregivers. I think it's important to be the face that ends up in front of the city councils and talks about the importance of medical marijuana. Some people are too scared or too sick to do this. I think one of the things I really didn't appreciate before was the need to organize. There are a lot of different groups engaging at many different levels. I never really thought about how to go about building a coalition, building common ground and strategic planning for how we can go about doing that."
Dondi Meitz, a medical marijuana patient active in the Brighton Area Compassion Clubs who took the training, says, "It was good for honing my activist skills. ASA is a bigger group than I'm used to, so there's more outreach available, giving us the ability to network throughout the United States. ASA has been around a long time and it's in all of the states. It really is about networking."
ASA says it is the United States' oldest medical cannabis group and maintains a full-time lobbyist in Washington, D.C. The organization claims to have convinced President Barack Obama to back off on raiding medical marijuana dispensaries. Brandy Zink, a local ambassador, and Raudel Wilson, ASA's community development coordinator, will both speak at the expo. Then Wilson will stay in Michigan for a week to work with community activists. Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Medical Marijuana Expo is an example of what can happen when people do get organized. You can find out more about it at ammp.com, or call 877-794-2099. There is a promotional video for the expo on YouTube under the title AMMP Medical Marijuana Expo. Also, ASA has a DVD of the activist training available. The organization can be reached through its website at safeaccessnow.org.
Remember the petition initiative to put the question of legalizing marijuana in Detroit on the ballot last year? If you don't, it may be because discussion pretty much died after the Detroit Election Board decided not to put it on the ballot. The proposed ordinance would have decriminalized possession of 1 ounce or less by a person 21 or older while on private property.
"We never really talked much about it because we knew it would be pre-empted by state law," City Council member Saunteel Jenkins told me when I spoke to her about it several weeks ago. Not that she has anything to do with the election board, but the comment tells you something about the sentiment at City Hall.
Maybe there will be more talk about it now. The Coalition for a Safer Detroit, which ran the petition effort, filed an appeal of the Wayne Circuit Court's decision last August backing the election board. The coalition argues that the election board's decision keeping the question off the ballot was clearly based on the members' "disapproval of the objective the initiative petition seeks to accomplish." Translation: They just didn't want to see marijuana legalized in the city.
"The appeal says that the city of Detroit created a fictitious conflict between state and city law as far as pre-emption," says Beck, a coalition leader. "The bottom line is we are determined that the rule of law is going to exist in the city of Detroit period, and in Wayne County. That is why we are so determined to go forward. This is a complete abuse of their authority. We may as well be living in a Third World country the way these people can arbitrarily and capriciously disregard the rule of law. And we're taking this as far as we can. We are also asking the appeals court to publish their opinion; that means that it becomes binding law. So that Detroit and any other city cannot play that type of game again. Either a ballot initiative process exists in Detroit or it doesn't. If we lose the case that means we don't have a ballot initiative process in Detroit."
One reason the appeal wasn't filed until January is that the coalition had to file a motion for contempt of court against the court reporter in order to get a transcript of the first hearing, which is required for an appeal. The coalition finally got its transcript on Jan. 6. The appeal argues that since the petition fulfilled all legal requirements to go on the ballot, it doesn't matter what anyone thought about its content.
This one will see a lot more time in court before we see it on the ballot — if ever.