Opinion MMJ Part II 

MMJ vs. Legalization

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It is a sad but true fact in the world today that politics, lobbying, and action take money, lots and lots of money. This means that to enforce the will of popular opinion we must band together as a cohesive force and make our voices one. There has been a long history of infighting in the cannabis industry. If NORML and other groups of their day had worked together in the 1970s this conversation might be long over. This didn't happen. Jealousy and greed gave the opposition the opening they needed to kindle the drug war. Cannabis is still prohibited under federal law, but in 27 states across our union there are experiments taking place that are proving cannabis to be a safer alternative to alcohol and opiate pain medicines.

One group in Arizona that gets it is Safer Arizona. They promoted their own voter initiative in the 2014 election, but failed to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. In the end it came down to money—not having enough of it—that kept the measure from being seen by the voters. Safer has joined forces with Arizonans for Mindful Regulation led by Jason Medar. Not satisfied by the initiative filed by Marijuana Policy Project, Medar filed his own similar but more permissive measure.    

MPP started out as a grassroots advocacy group focused on freedom, human rights and helping people gain safe, legal access to cannabis. They recently held an event in Phoenix to educate supporters about how to properly collect signatures to help get the proposed voter initiative on the November 2016 ballot. I reached out to J.P. Holyoak, MPP chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, in advance of the event and requested a few minutes to address the crowd about the importance of the upcoming Department of Health Services window to file petitions. Matt Schweich, MPP state campaigns director, responded by email and said I could address these urgent issues at the start of the event.

I made my way to Phoenix excited to help spread the word about our urgent mission to provide access to medical marijuana to another million Arizonans. I asked people I know to help me find Schweich, whom I'd never met. Much to my shock and dismay, when we met he said he couldn't allow me to speak as MPP was lobbying for legalization and this work conflicted with our MMJ issue. He said the decision had come from on high and that there was nothing he could do. Unspoken was the issue that I wanted to raise money for the CNA to expand the medical program, while MPP is focused on raising the millions of dollars necessary to turn a voter initiative into law. I made him aware of my displeasure about my time being wasted and the important message going unheard.

It saddens me to say that I no longer have the confidence I used to that MPP is first on the side of the patients. They seem to be following the stream of cash they generate with their lobbying efforts to bigger and bigger markets. No longer are they focused on helping us regain our freedoms and our human rights, and our ability to care for ourselves. But lets not let them forget that medical marijuana opened these doors for acceptance of the many uses of cannabis. MMJ created the Industry that is emerging, and you haven't seen anything yet. The science is coming, and big pharma is coming and they will do things with cannabinoids that we can only dream of. MPP is poised to be involved in all of this. They stand to raise tens of millions of dollars in lobbying money for political action. It is amazing to me that they could see me trying to raise money for a few sick people in Arizona as a threat to their high profile initiative. I will still support the MPP initiative. I will collect signatures. I will vote in favor of it. I probably won't give them what they want most, money. I will also support the AZFMR initiative, I will support any initiative that expands Arizonans freedom, but the AZFMR initiative will have a special place in my heart. They truly want a more democratic system to be in place for Arizona's cannabis industry. They don't have the money, but they do have the human element on their side, and I am willing to chip in a few bucks. Lets hope some others will join me.


More by Aari Ruben

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