Marijuana Advocates 'Discouraged,' but not Deterred

On election night, Steven Sharpe sat with a grin on his face, celebrating the decriminalization of marijuana in Jackson -- a petition for which he helped gather the signatures.

Sunday, he sat less content and more frustrated.

"This is just a political game they have to play," Sharpe said of two bills stalled in Sen. Randy Richardville's (R-Monroe) Senate Government Operations Committee. "Senator Richardville is hurting the people that need this the most."

Both bills passed the House in January. One would permit the manufacture and sale of marijuana-infused products. The other would let individual communities decide whether to allow dispensaries.

"I'm optimistic," said Sharpe. "We're winning this battle. It's getting people to understand nobody's died from this yet. They worry about the children -- there's no children that have died. There's no animals that have died from cannabis yet."

Sharpe was attending the first-ever American Rights Conference in Lansing -- an event that drew advocates and vendors from around the country.

"This isn't about bongs," Charmie Gholson, the conference's co-founder. "People want to learn. There's a real drive for people to understand what the big deal is and we can tell them. We're the people that have been fighting on the front lines of the drug war for a long time."

And while the stalled senate bills were a more discouraging sign, Gholson says a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that prohibits municipalities from banning medical marijuana is a step in the right direction.

"Every time we have victories, we have backlash and there will be pushback from the people who want to maintain the prohibition of marijuana," said Gholson.

Further evidence of progress, Gholson says, is an NBC Poll that shows 55 percent of Americans would back laws similar to those adopted in Colorado and Washington, where adults 21 and older can buy marijuana for personal use.

"We've reached that tipping point," she said. "We know this is a long haul, it's a marathon race. It's the long arc of justice, so you have to be patient."

The American Rights Conference plans to hit the road, stopping in a different Michigan city every month. Grand Rapids is the next scheduled stop.


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