There was much tough talk when a crowd of about 250 medical marijuana advocates gathered outside the offices of Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard on Monday to protest recent raids on clinics where pot was being sold.
Along with outrage over the way patients were treated — allegedly thrown to the floor by masked, gun-toting narcs who planted jackboots on the backs of the sick and infirm — much mention was made of the will of the people, and of the senselessness of spending scarce public resources on harassing people who are only trying to either provide or obtain what is now a legal medicine.
There was also mention made of Bouchard's over-the-top attempt to demonize those arrested by implying that, rather than simple caregivers, they were really more like organized gangsters ruthless enough to have vicious alligators guarding their crops.
Some protestors had placards with a photo of one of those killer reptiles.* Daisy is said to be less than a foot long, living in a terrarium until cops hauled her away. In other words, Bouchard's depiction of a family pet as an agent of menace appears to be a half-baked crock of propaganda.
At one point the crowd began to chant "Free Daisy!" Maybe she will become the official mascot of a left-wing equivalent to the Teabaggers: the Pot Party.
The call for concerted political action was repeated often. As one of the speakers said: "If we are going to stop the tyranny, we have to do it at the ballot box." Detroit-area activist and educator Mike Witty added an exclamation point by declaring that politicians need to start fearing the wrath of medical marijuana supporters the way they do the National Rifle Association.
Such talk isn't necessarily a pipe dream. Sixty-three percent of Michigan voters gave their approval to Proposition 1 in 2008. And now that people are making money off the change in law — lots of money, from grow shops to specialized medical clinics to compassion clubs — the movement has funding sources it didn't have before. The troops who rallied in front of Bouchard's office — as well as at the Lapeer County Sheriff's Department, which also conducted recent raids — came from Kimball Township, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Lansing and Oak Park, on busses paid for by compassion club owners, who also provided T-shirts, signs and pizza.
So, there is a well-funded organizing force in a position to help activate a motivated group. The diversity of that group was on display at the protest — raging wide in age and ethnically diverse.
If the group really is going to exercise political power, a perfect test of its strength is only weeks away. One of the candidates running for Michigan attorney general is former state Appellate Court Judge Bill Schuette, who helped lead the failed attempt to defeat Prop. 1 at the polls. As a recent opinion piece he co-authored shows, Schuette's stance hasn't softened any since the voters spoke.
"Throughout the campaign in 2008, proponents of the medical marijuana ballot initiative argued this was a carefully crafted proposal aimed at helping those few who suffered from intractable pain," Schuette and two others wrote. "Instead, the proposal has been nothing short of a nightmare for state and local authorities to sort through. "
His Democratic opponent in the AG race, Genessee County Prosecutor David Leyton, has signaled a more tolerant intent toward the law.
"It's the will of the people — 63 percent of the people voted for it," he told the Petoskey News. "It's my role ... to make the law more understandable to law enforcement, so the people know what they can do and cannot do. There's a lot of gray areas. The attorney general should have filled in those gray areas." He added, "I will not spend the next four years trying to repeal the law. ..."
The lines have been drawn. What remains to be seen is whether this movement can get organized and have an effect, or if all the talk of real political power is just so much smoke being blown.