Rick Thompson: Michigan’s Long, Winding Road to Cannabis Freedom

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Rick Thompson is a cannabis advocate, citizen journalist, and organizer of the Michigan Cannabis Business Development Conferences. His efforts helped see Michigan’s 2018 cannabis legalization initiative to a successful finish last month.

Rick recently joined our podcast host TG Branfalt to discuss the 2018 elections and to give an insider’s look at the road map for Michigan’s inbound adult-use cannabis marketplace. In this episode, Rick shares experiences from the state’s unsuccessful 2012 and 2016 legalization attempts, talks about the state of Michigan’s current medical cannabis system, and offers advice for activists in other states who are considering tackling a legalization voter initiative of their own.

You can tune into their interview via the media player below or scroll further down to read a full transcript of this Ganjapreneur.com podcast episode!

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TG Branfalt: Hey there, I’m your host TG Branfalt and you are listening to the Ganjapreneur.com podcast where we try to bring you actionable information and normalize cannabis through the stories of Ganjapreneurs, activists and industry stakeholders. Today my guest is Rick Thompson. He’s a board member of Michigan NORML and MI Legalize. He’s the owner of Michigan Cannabis Business Development Group. He’s an activist and a journalist, a guy who wears many hats. Love having him on my show. How are you doing this afternoon, Rick?

Rick Thompson: Tim, I’m doing great. Thank you for having me on the Ganjapreneur.com episode.

TG Branfalt: I’m super stoked. Before we get into the recent success at the polls, I want to talk to you about 2016. What happened in 2016, why did that initiative not end up even going to voters, and tell me what you learned from that experience?

Rick Thompson: In 2016, the MI Legalize tried to put forth a ballot proposal to put legalization on the ballot. We required 250000 signatures. We collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but we didn’t do it within a 180-day window that the Michigan law states that we have to use. Now there was a legal interpretation that allowed us to believe we could possibly prevail even outside that 180-day window, but during our petition drive, the legislature took it upon themselves to close that window and change the legislation. And as a result, the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan did not honor our request to get on the ballot.

So that’s what fueled our desire to get the legalization on the ballot in 2018.

TG Branfalt: And so tell me about the 2018 experience. From collecting signatures to actually getting it on the ballot to the success, walk me through your experience with that, from being a guy on the ground.

Rick Thompson: Well I’ve been on the Board of Directors of MI Legalize 2016 and then prior to that it was one of the principals of the Repeal Today movement, which tried to legalize marijuana in 2012. So in 2016 when we realized that we were not going to make the ballot, we started looking for additional sponsors in order to help us out. Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance expressed some interest in coming to Michigan to do a legalization initiative, but they wanted to wait until 2020.

We were able to convince them that 2018 was the right time for this movement in our particular state. We had the infrastructure, we had momentum going. And it was the synergy between the national partners and the local on-the-ground activists that was able to make our committee to regulate marijuana like alcohol group successful in our effort to put that legalization proposal on the ballot. But we had to learn by making some mistakes in 2016 before we could be successful with our ’18 campaign.

TG Branfalt: So that ballot initiative passed 56%. I mean, it was a borderline slam dunk. And recently Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof introduced a measure that would get rid of the home growing provisions in that voter approved measure. In your opinion, what are the chances that this passes?

Rick Thompson: I don’t think that the Arlan Meekhof bill will pass in its current form. It’s about 75 pages long. It contains a ton of changes to the legalization proposal before the legalization proposals even realized. It doesn’t have 100% Republican support which it would need, and it doesn’t have any Democratic support. Because the legalization proposal is a citizen-directed initiative, it requires a three quarters super majority vote in both the House and the Senate in order to make amendments to it. It doesn’t seem like in its current form, the Meekhof bill will be able to get that.

However, in the lame duck session of legislature, compromises are made, changes are made that are subtle or more abrupt and deals get struck in the wee hours of the morning. So we’re never certain until the legislature dismisses for the year that they’re not going to be successful doing something.

TG Branfalt: So earlier you had mentioned the coalitions and relationships that you had built in 2018. What is the sort of overall importance of building these relationships? And how do you overcome the different opinions when everybody has the same end goal?

Rick Thompson: Well, what we saw is that both sides, the national partners and the in state activist network were absolutely dependent upon each other in order to be successful. With MI Legalize we’d just seen in 2016 that our in state efforts by themselves did not get the job done. But we also saw in national races sometimes national organizations that do not get the support of the local community in the states that are trying to get legislation passed, and that turned out to be not successful too.

So we worked from a position of dependence on each other. We also eliminated people that were not willing to our capable of working in group scenarios with other folks. And then moved forward from that point. We had a lot of conversations and we represented a lot of different viewpoints in this issue with a smaller group of people that drafted the actual language of the proposal. There were some professionals, some folks representing interest groups, and then also a group of activists that were there as well.

And that’s one of the reasons why we have a proposal that has the most liberal possession limits in the United States, the most liberal cultivation limits in the United States on a personal level. Because we maintained involved in that process of drafting, and it also allowed us to retain our support base as a state-based community. Because we didn’t betray the people that put their trust in us to represent them properly in those negotiations.

TG Branfalt: You mentioned the activists that played a role in the 2018 success. You yourself are an activist, but sort of you’re also a citizen journalist with your Social Revolution blog, something that I as a journalist have used to find stories in Michigan. So when did you decide to take on that citizen journalist role?

Rick Thompson: Well, in 2009 when we launched the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, that was really the linchpin to the start of my movement into journalism. I’d never really done any journalism prior to that. But we really recognized that patients were not getting any information and that people were accidentally becoming criminals even though they believed that they were following the letter of the law. So we started with the purist of intent. In fact, to be honest with you, the first magazine really was never a money maker. We took a lot of hits as far as financially to put that out there. But it was worth every issue and episode.

So after that was no longer successful for a variety of reasons, I transferred over into Internet journalism to maintain that still concept that we have to let people know what’s going on, and that an informed citizenry is a better thing for everybody. And that’s continued on through my several different incarnations in Internet journalism. I also try and keep that message going, too, when I do my public appearances. I’m frequently an MC or a speaker at a lot of the functions we have here in the state. And I try to keep that spirit of community independence and interdependence alive every time I talk to our people.

TG Branfalt: So when we had spoken before you had mentioned to me that you didn’t really play much of a role in the passage of the medical cannabis laws ten years ago. And since then you’ve really become one of the foremost advocates in the state. Your profile’s pretty high. How’d you end up ten years later going from someone who wasn’t involved to someone who is a key player in cannabis policy in the state?

Rick Thompson: I think when we look at citizen journalism, citizen journalism is incredibly admirable but very low on the pay scale. So in order to support my citizen journalism, I did some things that were business related in the cannabis industry. And because I kept all of my balls that were in the air were all in the cannabis sphere, my focus was exclusively on this industry. Not everybody gets that opportunity, but I was able to take that and translate that into testimony at the House, testimony at the Senate. I was recognized by High Times at their international business conference in Washington, D.C. by giving a presentation on the emerging markets in the Midwest.

By staying true to my purpose and by completely devoting everything I had, I was able to remain in this game. If I had a nine to five job like most other people, I wouldn’t have been nearly as effective in architecting change, and in helping other people do the same.

TG Branfalt: So you mentioned citizen journalism isn’t a moneymaker. Publishing, as most people will tell you, doesn’t make you a lot of money. But you started the Michigan Cannabis Business Development Group. Tell me about that and what you do with that.

Rick Thompson: Michigan Cannabis Business Development Group is an organization, we do small business conferences across the state. I target university facilities or hotels, larger hotels. We have done eight so far since 2015 and this weekend on Sunday will be our ninth conference. That’ll be at the Lansing Radisson Hotel at the Grand Ballroom. This is my third year in a row doing a small business conference for cannabis entrepreneurs at that particular location in December. We’ve also been to Detroit, Ann Arbor, Bay City, Flint, Traverse City. We try to spread the information out around as much of the state as possible because there are a lot of people with questions that can’t travel to get someone to answer them. So we try our very best to bring our show and all of the information that we provide out to the places that are otherwise kind of ignored by traditional speaking engagements or traditional conference series.

TG Branfalt: You mentioned that that’s aimed at small businesses. I know whenever legalization is discussed or passed there’s always this question about big business coming in, swooping in and wiping out all the existing businesses and growers. Is that something’s that’s concerning to you guys out in Michigan?

Rick Thompson: That’s very much a concern. In our medical marijuana business program which is the only business program that we have in Michigan right now, since we won’t see legalized cannabis businesses until at least 2020, in our business program right now for the medical community we have three different levels of growers. A 500 plant grow, a 1000 plant grow and a 1500 plant grow. And if you’ve got a 1500 plant license you can stack them, meaning that you can grow 1500, 3000, 4500, 6000, the sky’s the limit essentially. The first award of a license for a cultivator in Michigan was for a four license stacked facility, giving one particular person 6000 plants of power.

Now that’s a lot of juice to give one particular company. And it’s also a lot of risk for our industry as well. If something were to happen, for example a bankruptcy or some kind of a business-related issue where those 6000 plants automatically had to stop and go offline, that would represent a significant interruption in the supply chain in Michigan. So it’s always been my belief that having more grow operations around the state would be a better way to insulate the patient population from those fluctuations that we’ve seen happen in other states, like Oregon and Washington. So we’re very concerned that having a corporate influence could dominate the market and bring with it some of the risks for catastrophic failure.

But also we’re very concerned about the medical quality too. You can see where a bean counter, someone who’s a financier, could look at a square foot space in a grow operation and decide that they could only allocate that space to a plant that yields eight pounds or more. But we know that some of the most medicinal plants are some of the sativas. And they oftentimes don’t yield as much as some of the big fat indicas do. So if you were making decisions from a corporate advantage level as opposed to what’s best for your patients, then that doesn’t advantage our community whatsoever. And we’re very concerned about that type of thing happening.

TG Branfalt: So what comes next in the legalization process? This is out of the voter’s hand, this is out of the advocate’s hands. What’s coming next? You said that non-patients won’t start being able to buy cannabis until about 2020?

Rick Thompson: Right. Now personal freedoms, which are the 12 plants to grow per household, and the 2.5 ounces that you can have on yourself, those will begin on December 6. But the state of Michigan has a 12-month period in which they can promulgate rules that will govern the licensing of legalization businesses. So that would put the ETA date on legalization businesses at sometime in 2020. I will say that we have elected just this last November a very favorable governor and a very favorable attorney general, both of whom spoke at the Hash Bash in Ann Arbor this year, the first time ever that we’ve had this.

So we have the most progressive group of people in charge that Michigan’s ever experienced as far as I’m concerned. So when we talk about what the possibilities are, we can maybe accelerate the process. They have 12 months to make rules, but maybe they only take six because they’re incentivized by the governor to get them done more quickly. So we could see it faster, but probably not. But what 2019 represents though, is a very big step forward in the business community in Michigan regarding cannabis. The MMFLA, which is the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, that’s the business wing of the medical marijuana program. And they’ve been licensing businesses as fast as they can in 2018. And in 2019 most of those businesses will come online and additional businesses will be licensed. So we’ll see spreading across the state a fully fleshed out business community serving the patients that we have, which are about 300,000 registered patients in Michigan right now.

So 2019 will be exciting for that. But then also when 2020 comes around, those MMFLA licensed facilities, those people that are already providing medical cannabis, those will be the first facilities that receive permission to sell legalized cannabis too. So we are architected the legalization bill to build upon the successes in the medical program. So instead of reinventing the wheel and creating a whole brand new separate infrastructure, we elected to use the same infrastructure. We just also elected to use smarter rules to run those businesses though.

TG Branfalt: And I know that in the medical program out there that some communities have opted out, they don’t allow cannabis businesses to operate. What’s the word on the street in terms of communities now? You had mentioned that you’re a little bit galvanized right now from the incoming governor and the incoming attorney general. Do you foresee a lot of local communities opting out of the recreational side of this?

Rick Thompson: I think that the concept of opting out is actually not included in the legalization proposal itself, nor has there been any state department requiring communities to opt out. So it is a phenomenon that’s happening that’s kind of inspired by the anti-legalization proponents, primarily Healthy & Productive Michigan, which is an in-state arm funded almost exclusively by Smart Approaches to Marijuana. So we’re seeing a lot of communities make declarations that were already saying no prior to legalization.

But the state of Michigan maintains a database that has about 110 different communities in the state that have already said yes to medical marijuana businesses in their locations. And so that 110 communities will be the basis upon which legalization will jump off. But it’s my understanding or at least my belief that we’ll probably see a lot more communities saying yes to medical and legalized businesses in the upcoming year, because they’re going to see the advantage it brings to their neighbor communities. Nobody wants to be first, but everybody wants to get money. So when the guys who go first start to show a profit, everybody else will line up in order to get into that trough like little piggies.

TG Branfalt: Do you think that legalization in Canada helped you guys this year, being as though you can throw a rock from Detroit to Canada?

Rick Thompson: Well, and it is true. In fact, parts of Detroit are actually north of parts of Canada in Michigan. Most people don’t know that. We are very, very close to Canada right here, but I don’t believe that that had a big influence and I’ll tell you why. We’ve been polling at about 57 to 60%, pretty much regularly throughout 2018. So when Canada legalized cannabis it didn’t really affect our poll numbers any, so I can’t imagine that if affected that. Here’s the other thing too though, Tim, is that our poll numbers indicated that there were only about four or five percent of Michiganders who were undecided on the issue of cannabis. So these people had already made up their minds long before the advertising campaigns or the town halls and all of the negativity that we saw brought here, and all the falsehoods that were perpetrated through the media.

Michigan was ready for it. They had already decided. Now that’s something that’s a privilege that a lot of other states that are going to explore medical or legalized cannabis are not going to enjoy. As I mentioned, we had that 2012 effort to legalize, and then we had the 2016 effort to legalize prior to our 2018 effort. And it was only because of those recent media events, the legalization efforts, that we accomplished that big in-state knowledge base. A lot of other places don’t have that. So it’ll be more of a difficult struggle for them.

TG Branfalt: Well speaking of other states, what does Michigan’s legalization, strong legalization, mean for the rest of the Midwest. I mean, Wisconsin has one of the worst medical programs in the country. Ohio famously chose not to legalize a few years ago, and that was for more the bill reasons. But what do you think it means for the rest of the region?

Rick Thompson: Well what we’ve said all along is that Michigan’s going to set a new standard for the way that America legalizes cannabis. We have the most generous possession limits, we have the most generous cultivation limits. And we’ve kept the taxes lower than any other legalized state in the United States. Our tax is only ten percent on cannabis. And that was done intentionally in order to stifle the black market and to encourage people to come into the rec market. But what it means nationally is that there’s a new bar for the next state to raise. Instead of 12 plants per house, maybe they’ll say 20 plants per household. Instead of 2.5 ounces maybe they’ll say no possession limit. As long as you’re not selling, you can have whatever you got. So it’s possible that by establishing such a friendly law in Michigan that we’re going to raise the bar for all other states that come after us.

But it’s also an incentive for other Midwestern states to adopt more liberal laws. We saw, as you mentioned, Wisconsin’s got a terrible law. Illinois’ law started off not very good. They’ve made it difficult for patients to register and difficult for businesses to get open. And their program suffered because of it. And now we’re seeing them loosen up on those laws and it looks like maybe they’ll actually have a functioning medical system. Also note that the governor in Illinois seems to be extremely interested in getting legalization in his state too. And I think that has a lot to do with Michigan’s success.

We’re also seeing more common sense principles being brought about in Ohio’s system. I like what I see in Pennsylvania and New York. So Michigan is helping to be the lead dog. But this is really a sled chain of eight or nine of us, eight or nine states that are pushing towards the same common goal. We just happen to be in front right now. And being in front gives you a business advantage. I would love very much to see Detroit to become the intellectual hub of the cannabis industry in the Midwest. I’d like to see people like MedMen or other places come in and choose to set up shop in Michigan because of a friendly environment and pass over places like Chicago or Columbus or Indianapolis.

I would like to see Michigan have an opportunity to have a resurgence of industry that we haven’t seen since the takeoff of the automobile industry. And certainly we have enough experience and enough talent here in the state to make those dreams a reality.

TG Branfalt: You mentioned the automotive industry and GM just announced they were closing some plants. I guess I’m wondering whether or not you’ve heard interested business people saying hey, there’s an old car factory that has all of this square footage and we don’t have to really rebuild a new facility, just rehab these former car facilities. Is that something that you think could happen, or that you’re sort of already hearing rumblings about happening?

Rick Thompson: For certain types of facilities, that certainly may be advantageous. Most of the automobile facilities that you may be referring to are in urban environments and they would be ideal for things like cultivation centers. Big open spaces that you could individualize, build interior walls and set things aside, control your environment. But for transportation or for processing or for retail, probably not so ideal. So we have an opportunity to repurpose some of those facilities, and in fact we saw quite a few of those types of businesses and buildings emerge in Detroit while Detroit was being very permissive. Detroit has no longer become permissive and they’ve become quite difficult to work with, so we’re seeing a lot of those people that had success in ’15, ’16 and ’17 in the medical program with large scale cultivation, that was sort of a gray market thing, those people are being forced out now.

What we are seeing, though, across the state are provisioning centers, which is our term for dispensary, provisioning centers occupying places in towns that have been vacant and derelict for a long time. And we see those buildings being rehabbed and having their value improved, and having parking lots being paved and new roofs being put on and beautiful signage being put up. So the example that people in Michigan have seen of the medical community has been a positive one over the last nine years. It’s one of the reasons why we had such a low undecided rate going into the November 6 election.

TG Branfalt: Are there any immediate social justice aspects in the bill? And what about social equity?

Rick Thompson: Well, one of the things our bill suggests is that we try to reward communities that have been historically disadvantaged by the war on drugs. The methodology through which the state selectively helps those communities is not outlined. When you do a voter directed initiative, you’re limited in the amount of space that you can use. So you can’t put everything in that you might possibly want. You can direct a state to do something, but you may not be able to fully articulate the method by which you want the state to accomplish that purpose.

So to a certain degree, we’ve laid out some guidelines and then we’re trusting the state to follow through and make sure that they honor our intent. But the biggest thing as far as social justice goes is expungement. And we wanted to make sure that that was included in the bill in order to relieve people who were convicted of crimes that would now be legalized under the new proposal’s law. We were not able to include expungement in our proposal, because Michigan has something called a single issue rule. And it means that voter directed initiative cannot focus on too many things. If it tries to accomplish too much in too many areas of law, then it can be determined to be invalid. And our attorneys were concerned that if we included expungement we might be assailable in court. However, in Michigan there is a second way to accomplish expungement, and that’s through a legislative process. Representative Sheldon Neely from Flint here has introduced a bill for expungement already in the legislative session. It may not get a lot of attention in 2018 because of all the other things they’re trying to accomplish during this very brief lame duck session that they have, but 2019 almost certainly we’re going to see expungement introduced.

And both our new incoming attorney general and our incoming governor have both expressed support for the concept of expungement. So we feel like we’ll actually have a government that wants to accomplish the things that we want to accomplish. Which will be a very nice position to be in finally.

TG Branfalt: And you’re of course talking about Schuette who was not friendly to your cause. How will patients in the medical cannabis program in the state be affected by the legalization measure?

Rick Thompson: What we think is that the patient population is going to be enhanced by the legalization proposal. Right now, patients rule. They’re the only people that can grow plants in Michigan legally until December 6. And you can assign a caregiver to grow your plants on your behalf, and that caregiver can accumulate up to five patients and grow on their behalf too. So if that caregiver is also a patient, and he has five patients as well, that gives him a maximum of 72 plants in his domicile that he can legally grow. With the legalization proposal, we wanted to be able to help somebody who’s growing 60 or 72 plants have a leg into the business community. So we set a bar low in order to be able to accomplish that. We put a 100 plant grow limit on that, so it should be easy to translate someone’s skill set from a 72 plant grow to a 100 plant grow.

It might be very difficult to translate it from a 72 plant grow to a 500 plant grow as currently is outlined in the medical marijuana business program. So with the legalization we wanted to give it an easier way for people to become business persons. But we also wanted to respect the integrity of someone’s ability to be able to cultivate and process their own cannabis in maybe an organic way or perhaps to provide for that specialty product that certain groups of consumers are going to want.

So we created something called a micro business environment. And that would be a vertically integrated grow processing and retail operation run by a single entity or family. And we tried to model it after the craft beer licensing style. And that should be much easier to get into than it would be if you were trying to arrange the same three type of licenses through the medical program, which would require you to have at least three quarters of a million dollars in financial equity in order to secure those three licenses individually.

So we architected legalization to make it easier for patients to translate the skills that they developed growing for themselves or for others into a business advantage. In addition to that, by using the existing medical business framework to launch the legalization framework from means that the locations that patients are used to getting medicine from will be the place that they could go to if they needed to gain other things. If you needed to behave not like a patient for awhile, if you needed to acquire clones or if you needed to acquire something else, you’d have an opportunity to do so through the legalized market.

TG Branfalt: That’s really forward thinking of your initiative, of the drafters of the initiative. What states did you guys look to for best practices. You had several state legislations to choose from instead of say one or two.

Rick Thompson: Well, I will first of all state right out that I was not one of the people sitting at that drafting table in order to hammer out that process. I am not personality-wise suited to dealing with people that propose idiocy, so I was not well suited to that task. So other people did, Jeff Hank, Matthew Able, Jamie Lowell, specifically for our cause. But most of what we saw from national programs was brought to us by our national partners. You can’t beat the Drug Policy Alliance or Marijuana Policy Project for having that knowledge and that leg up on all the different intricacies of the different state programs.

And the experience base that they brought to it as well was invaluable. We couldn’t duplicate that just from in state activists. They told us what worked in previous states, what didn’t. They brought us examples of language that we could look at to try and accomplish a single goal and a variety of different ways. And we hacked out some of the experiences they had in other states. And then helped them understand why what they proposed would or would not work in Michigan based on our unique structure. So a lot of what we did was directed by our national partners when it came to melding some of those policies.

But there was certainly a move to only allow two plants at some point. There certainly was a move to only allow six plants at some point. But our negotiating partners, especially the three men I just mentioned, they helped to secure that 12 plant standard. Which mirrors what we give our medical patients as far as permission and privilege in Michigan.

TG Branfalt: So I want to sort of switch gears a little bit and talk to you about the state police program that was searching for cannabis impairment using mouth swabs. They recently wrapped that up. Have you heard anything yet about the results about the results of that program or whether they’re going to continue to use that mouth swab test to test of cannabis impairment. What do you know about that?

Rick Thompson: Well, in 2016 the legislature enacted two separate issues. One of them was to put an impaired driving commission out there whose specific purpose in title was to determine a THC limit for impairment for drivers. Not to determine if an impairment limit was valid scientifically, but to determine a number they could use. Which is really not the way you do science. Secondly, they initiated this roadside swab testing that you’re talking about. Now the roadside swab testing was a pilot program for only five counties. And it’s not scientifically performed. In other words, when a drug recognition expert has you pulled over on the side of the road, he decides then whether he thinks you may be impaired and then gives you the test. Not giving the test to just everybody that they happen to stop. So we expect that those tests are going to have a higher rate of return of success because they’ve been selectively using the tests and the way they apply them.

The other thing is it’s not Food and Drug Administration approved so there’s a question about the reliability and accuracy. And in fact this pilot program was designed and pitched to the legislature as an experiment to determine the validity of this particular type of test. Which to me always seemed like we were using Michigan citizens to do some testing that the manufacturer should have done at their own expense prior to bringing any of these tests out onto the market. But we’ll see the results of the tests after 2019. But we may see the influence of those tests here in the next few days.

Because one of the things that some of the conservative legislators in Michigan who are leaving power have wanted to do is establish that THC nanogram driving limit. And I don’t think they believe that they’re going to get that limit established under a very friendly administration by the incoming governor and attorney general, so they may very well try to push through legislation that establishes that standard utilizing the results that they got from those mouth swabs even though they may not have fully formed a report that are ready to submit to the people.

We’re very concerned about it. It seems incredibly subjective. The mouth swabs, if it returns a positive result, then you have to have a blood test in order to confirm. So if you get swabbed and it says yes, you’re guaranteed a ride to the hospital. Which is just atrocious. The science obviously is not there to improve any kind of an oral swab would indicate impairment. We believe that the best way to determine someone’s operating their vehicle in an inappropriate or unsafe manner is to watch how they operate their vehicle. And when you see them operating it in an unsafe manner then you can take action. The content of their bloodstream doesn’t determine their ability to drive correctly.

TG Branfalt: I’m sure you’ll be keeping a close eye on this, so probably publishing it on the Social Revolution blog, I’d imagine, huh?

Rick Thompson: Well we do a lot of work with the legislature on these particular issues. We have a couple of different partners that specifically work up in Lansing that do things. So we will be talking about this, we will be putting things out as regularly as we can to keep everyone updated. Again, there’s just such a lack of information coming from the state. But in Michigan, we’re very fortunate that we have strong media partnerships which have been developed over the last ten years of advocacy on behalf of medical marijuana patients.

Now media members recognize the issues we’ve been raising. They see the contradictions that are being said by the government and now they question those voices of authority that told them in the past things like kids are going to get this, people are going to start going to the hospital, you’re going to see traffic fatalities increase. They’re demanding proof instead of just accepting the words. And that’s an evolution that you can’t pay for. You have to earn that. And you only get that by years and years of being a good media partner and behaving properly in your state. And our patients have earned that.

TG Branfalt: So throughout this conversation, man, you’ve covered a lot of ground. Now I want to ask you what your advice is for advocates in states, the few that remain with the initiative processes, that might attempt to undertake this petition process.

Rick Thompson: All right, my advice for people who want to undertake the petition process is have your head examined. It’s a lot of work. The fact is, though, not every state offers a petition process. So if you live in a state that does, you kind of have an extra obligation to do it, people. Because, folks in about 24 states don’t have that right, and they have to go through the legislature to accomplish anything. First thing I would say, though, is identify who positive partners are going to be. And you have to have a frank evaluation about whose personalities just do not gel with the rest of the group.

Then you have to make sure those people are not included. Now there’s ways you can do it that don’t offend, that still allow you to maintain infrastructure but you have to eliminate people that simply can’t compromise. And that means sometimes some of your strongest patient advocates have to maybe sit on the sidelines. Because if you can’t negotiate something, you can’t be part of a group. Groups are about negotiation and compromise.

Secondly, I think you have to line up in advance financial sources. One of the things we chased during the entire time in the 2016 campaign, and then again in the 2018 campaign, was funding. It’s impossible to secure all your funding up front. But if you have people upon who you know you can count on when crucial deadlines come up or when you need more petitions printed or you need to have some media counter some negative attacks that you’re experiencing, if you’ve got people you can count on in those times, then you’re doing pretty good. But then it’s find a mentor. And that mentor would be an organization who has successfully done this in other states. Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. You can pick your national partner, but pick their brain and get them involved. We suffered twice and were unsuccessful because we tried to do it on our own. And when we brought the national partner in we’d already been an infrastructure that made it possible for us to be successful.

But without the national partnership we would not have collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

TG Branfalt: Well, Rick, this has been a really enlightening, really great conversation. Congratulations on your success. I really look forward to seeing how this develops. And as you know I spent a little bit of time in Detroit and I think it might be time for a visit back.

Rick Thompson: Yeah. I’ll have some mitten-style hospitality for you if you come back to Great Lakes, buddy.

TG Branfalt: I really appreciate your time, Rick.

Rick Thompson: Thank you very much, Tim. I enjoy Ganjapreneur and all the different things that you all do.

TG Branfalt: Thank you.

You can find more episodes of Ganjapreneur.com podcasts in the podcast section of Ganjapreneur.com and in the Apple iTunes Store. On the Ganjapreneur.com website you will find the latest cannabis news and cannabis jobs updated daily, along with transcripts of this podcast. You can also download the Ganjapreneur.com app in iTunes and Google Play.

This episode was engineered by Trim Media House. I’ve been your host, TG Branfalt.