Pubdate: Sat, 16 Aug 2014
Source: Cheboygan Daily Tribune, The  (MI)
Copyright: 2014 The Cheboygan Daily Tribune
Author: Brady Hebert, Tribune Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Michigan)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)


Over the past 10 years, Michigan citizens have voted in favor of 
pro-marijuana ordinances and state laws every time they have been 
given the opportunity, and the Committee to Reform Onaway, CRO, is 
hoping the streak continues in Onaway when its citizen-initiated 
ballot amendment proposal goes to voters in November.

The proposed amendment to the Onaway city charter, which will be 
placed on the November ballot, reads, "Nothing in the code of 
ordinances shall apply to the use, possession, or transfer of less 
than one ounce of marijuana, by a person who has attained the age of 21 years."

CRO collected the required amount of signatures to send the proposed 
amendment to voters, led by the efforts of Brad Forrester, 
spokesperson for CRO, and Ron Langworthy, treasurer for the group.

"The Committee for a Safer Michigan has been supporting ballot 
initiatives locally across the state.

I'm affiliated with the group, and I had a patient from Onaway 
(Langworthy) who was interested in doing a local ballot initiative in 
Onaway. He approached me and asked if I would be interested in helping.

I ran it by the people from Safer Michigan, and they thought Onaway 
was a good fit," said Forrester. Forrester said there were several 
options for amending ordinances and charters, and the decision to 
amend the city charter of Onaway was made because it was the overall 
guiding document of the municipality.

Forrester consulted with David Cahill, an attorney out of Ann Arbor, 
who wrote the ballot language and provided the petition forms, and 
the two went to work from there. "Ron and I developed a strategy, and 
Ron went out and collected about 47 signatures. I collected a few, 
but we didn't turn them in because he had enough.

We needed five percent of the total number of registered voters in 
Onaway, which at the time there were 628 registered voters," said Forrester.

The petition was turned into Onaway's city clerk, who Forrester said 
wasn't exactly sure what to do with them because no one had ever 
initiated a charter amendment in the city of Onaway before.

Forrester is hopeful the proposed amendment will pass, but the group 
plans to do what it can to help its cause. "If I was a betting man, I 
guess I wouldn't give it more than a 50/50 chance myself.

We are going to do things to help it pass. We are going to hold an 
open house, and we are going to register younger voters, because we 
know there are a lot of young people in Onaway who aren't registered 
to vote for one reason or another. "We are going to seek them out, 
and hopefully light a fire in them to be more politically active in 
the future. Voting on a cannabis issue one time is great, but you 
really need to be more active and take more control of your daily 
lives," explained Forrester. Forrester said the group also plans to 
print up yard signs and place them around town sometime in the first 
part of October.

Forrester made clear that if the proposed amendment passes, things 
won't change a great deal in Onaway. "Because the City of Onaway does 
not have its own police force, and it is patrolled by the Presque 
County Sheriff and the Michigan State Police, people will still be 
subject to arrest, prosecution, and incarceration for possessing, 
transferring or using cannabis in the city of Onaway. What they are 
doing by voting yes and supporting this amendment is sending a 
message to local elected officials and the legislature in Lansing, 
that the people in the state of Michigan would like to see law 
enforcement resources redirected on real crime. ... We need to focus 
resources on crimes like murder, theft, spousal abuse, criminal 
sexual conduct and fraud.

Those are the types of issues we should be paying attention to," said 

Forrester said that the measure is largely symbolic, and sends the 
message that the people in Michigan are ready for change and think 
that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco and 
prescription narcotics, and people shouldn't be put through the legal 
system just because they decide to consume cannabis.

Forrester has been a cannabis advocate for seven years, but was 
interested in similar issues before publicly advocating for them. "I 
feel that our government has gotten into our lives in too many ways. 
I think our property taxes are too high. I would like to see some of 
these things changed. I would like to see us go back to more of a 
constitutional style of governance. The marijuana angle, for me, is 
just one of many items that I hope to work on to help restore 
individual liberties to law-abiding Americans," said Forrester.

Similar initiatives have already passed in Hazel Park and Oak Park 
this year, and other cities like Clare, Harrison, Frankfort and 
several others will put the issue to voters soon.

Forrester said he sees the initiatives as part of a plan toward a 
statewide campaign he hopes will begin in 2016. "The sticking point 
right now on a statewide initiative is where we lie as far as public 
opinion and support.

For us to successfully embark on and complete a statewide campaign, 
we would need reliable polling numbers that say around 60 percent of 
the public would support a measure that would legalize marijuana for 
adults, establishes a regulatory structure for its cultivation and 
distribution, and sets forth a tax structure. There's no reason that 
adult cannabis use shouldn't be taxed the same way alcohol and 
cigarettes are taxed," said Forrester.

Forrester hosts compassion club meetings the first Thursday of every 
month at 6 p.m. at the Cheboygan Public Library for medical marijuana 
patients and caregivers along with other supporters of cannabis, and 
has organized the Third Annual Michigan National Organization for 
Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML, Bridge Walk for Labor Day in 
Mackinaw City. "We'll have about 150 cannabis supporters wearing 
identical shirts walking across the bridge spreading our message and 
answering questions.

After the 150 members cross the bridge, they will assemble and we 
will provide free breakfast for everybody who's wearing one of our 
shirts," said Forrester.

Forrester is also the membership director of Michigan NORML, and was 
a co-founder of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association in 2008. 
"I know the material very well and get along with most of the 
players, which is pretty hard to do in the cannabis community.

There are a lot of eclectic personalities," said Forrester. "And hey, 
I have to admit I'm really one of them, so I fit in under that 
criteria," he added laughing.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom