Pubdate: Wed, 24 Sep 2014
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Copyright: 2014 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel
Column: Higher Ground


A change is gonna come

Christeen Landino remembers attending her first marijuana protest in
downtown Detroit back in 1974. She still has a card from then that she
paid $1 for in support of the Michigan Marijuana Initiative, an
unsuccessful petition drive to get decriminalization on the ballot
that year. It didn't happen then, but we know that a whole lot of
water has passed under the Ambassador Bridge since then.

President Nixon had recently declared his war on drugs, and had
marijuana designated a Schedule 1 drug, despite having been advised to
decriminalize it. Today Nixon's drug war is pretty well considered a
failure, and the majority of Americans support legalization of marijuana.

"I know there are a lot of people who are still scared, still worried
about the stigma, but I see a light at the end of the tunnel," says
Landino, who retired last week as assistant executive director of
Michigan NORML after working there in one capacity or another since
2001. "If you would've asked me 10 years ago, I would've seen the
tunnel was so dark. Now that Colorado and Washington have legalized, I
see it all falling like dominos, just like alcohol

The changes that we've seen in Michigan with the legalization of
medical marijuana and decriminalization in cities across the state
happened because activists worked hard to make that proverbial light
appear at the end of the tunnel, and Landino was among those who
worked hardest to turn it on.

"I've had the pleasure of working with her on different projects with
Americans for Safe Access, NORML (National Organization for the Reform
of Marijuana Laws), and Repeal Today," says Brandy Zink, chair of
Michigan for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group. "As a
petition validator, no one worked harder than Christine. On petitions,
accuracy is so important. She wanted to do it with integrity and
honesty, to the letter of the law. That's something that's far from
the established perception of what people who use pot are like; she's
very meticulous with her work."

Petition initiatives have been the route to most of the change in
Michigan's marijuana laws. As we've seen in numerous cases, municipal
powers have gone over these petitions with a fine-tooth comb to find a
reason to keep the question off the ballot. Making sure you get it
right is vastly important. Politicians mostly don't want to see
marijuana laws change, but every time Michiganders have had a chance
to vote the laws have been lightened. And Landino has worked to allow
people to make that choice.

"She's been a very hard worker, someone who is always willing to help
out and lead," says attorney Matt Abel, executive director of the
Michigan NORML. "She's had just about every position in the
organization aside from being director, and she probably deserves that
honor. ... Although she's leaving the board, I'm certain that she will
not leave the movement. She'll work as hard as necessary to make sure
that we finish the job of repealing marijuana prohibition."

Landino is a founding member of the Michigan Industrial Hemp Education
and Marketing Project (MIHEMP), a group teaching about the many uses
of hemp and in support of farmers who want to grow the fibrous plant.

"It's an easy crop to grow," says Landino. "Anything that crude oil
can do, hemp can do better - and it's biodegradable."

Landino has been around this subject a long time, and she knows her
stuff. Trying to educate people who grew up with a Reefer Madness
mentality has motivated her to know her facts and be able to use them
when needed.

"I hope I helped people understand that this isn't the killer drug
that you've been told it is," she says.

And Landino holds herself up as an example to counter assumptions
about marijuana users. Landino grew up on Detroit's east side and
dropped out of Finney High School. However she got her General
Education Diploma, and went on to study at Marygrove College, Wayne
County Community College, and Macomb County Community College, with an
interest in computers and programming. She's worked as a bookkeeper,
bartender, and put in 23 years as a graphic artist at a Big Three
global audit tax advisory company.

"I went from minimum wage to making over 60 grand a year," she says
with pride, pointing out that marijuana doesn't make you a couch
potato and a menace to society. Then, in a refreshing bit of honesty,
says, "I smoked a joint every day before I went to work, 5:30 in the

Landino still has her work cut out for her. Her husband has neck and
back problems from a degenerative bone disease, along with severe
nerve damage from surgery. He uses medical marijuana to help control
the pain. And she's been working with Wounded Warriors and other
veterans organizations around post traumatic stress disorder.

"She's knowledgeable and compassionate and an example for a lot of
people to follow regarding how to conduct ourselves in spreading the
truth about cannabis," says Zink.

Expect to see Landino out where she's needed most. She may be a
retiree, but she's no lazy pothead.

Thanks to Rastafarians and reggae music, Jamaica has been a flagship
state for stoners since the 1960s. I first went there in 1977 after
getting an earful of Bob Marley and the Wailers. A friend and I got
something like a quarter pound of ganja for $10 in Negril and spent
the next four weeks traveling around that country and never having to
cop again. I also went dread for the first time with the directive
"Don't lay no razor on your head. Don't lay no comb in your hair. Soon

Anyhow, it looks like the Jamaican government is finally going to
acknowledge one of the major drivers of tourism to the Caribbean
island nation. Jamaica's cabinet has approved a marijuana
decriminalization plan and spotlighted Rastafarianism by specifically
noting religious purposes in the policy change.

Back in 2001 a National Commission on Ganja, the local term for
marijuana, recommended decriminalization, but it never happened
because of a fear of international sanctions. But things have changed
since then; the nation of Uruguay and the states of Colorado and
Washington have legalized it. Not to mention the business prospects.
Earlier this year a Jamaican Cannabis Future Growers and Producers
Association was established.

There's also hope that a regulated medical marijuana and scientific
research industry can attract investment to the island. Last year, a
company was formed there to support medical marijuana. Too bad Peter
Tosh never got his chance to advertise it.

The very, very bad trip that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd had
from eating too much of a marijuana-infused chocolate bar during a
trip to Colorado is serving a good purpose. The Marijuana Policy
Project recently launched a "Consume Responsibly" campaign to teach
tourists how to handle their edibles.

A billboard in Denver has the line, "Don't let a candy bar ruin your
vacation." It's accompanied by a picture of a red-haired woman in a
hotel room - a clear reference to Dowd's description of her
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