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Wednesday, January 12,2011

Pot PAC

A new group of lobbyists seek to defend medical cannabis

by Andy Balaskovitz

Gov. Rick Snyder and a new batch of legislators were sworn into their jobs about two weeks ago, but already a new lobbying group is gearing up for the 2012 election.


Sensible Michigan, a political action committee formed by a group of six people from Detroit, is drumming up support to defend the state’s medical marijuana law. They believe it’s a law on the brink of destruction by concerned politicians with lifelong qualms with cannabis.


Joe Fisher, one of the PAC’s founders, described the group as “young professionals” concerned with this state’s medical marijuana law — particularly its future.


“We’re an organization out there to defend the law and vigorously defend the rights of individuals,” he said. The group wants to keep the law as it is “for all intents and purposes.”


This is Fisher’s first go-round at organizing a PAC. Fisher, 28, said the effort began in earnest after the November elections and in light of “strong-armed law enforcement and prosecuting tactics,” particularly by Republican Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.


But with three-quarters of the Legislature needed to agree on amendments to the law, how realistic is it that changes would come from the top down?


“Frankly, the three-fourths majority required to alter the law is not as far-fetched as some people think,” he said. “Unfortunately, not a lot of politicians in Michigan have stood up in support of the law.”


Fisher added that Sensible Michigan is open to backing both Democrats and Republicans. Formal fund-raising efforts have not started, but he hopes to raise $500,000 by 2012 for candidates at all levels.


Mary Lindemann, a Lansing resident and president of Cannabis Patients United, started coaxing politicians at the Capitol since the law was passed in 2008 by 63 percent of Michigan voters. Her organization advocates on behalf of compassion clubs, attorneys, physicians and caregivers.


Lindemann is in downtown Lansing on a day-to-day basis, getting a feel for where both Democrats and Republicans stand on the issue, she said. She said she is finding a divide between between urban and rural legislators on regulating medical marijuana, with the rural representatives more opposed to regulation.


George Schneider, founder of Field of Dreams Consultants, said marijuana lobbying is hugely important.


“Everyone is looking for a defining thing,” he said. “We don’t have a voice or a coalition of people directly stating what we’re trying to say to the Legislature.”

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