About 100 cannabis caregivers, patients, and activists gathered on the Michigan Capitol Lawn in Lansing Tuesday to register their overall support for the state’s unique caregiver laws. The Michigan Cannabis Harvest Rally, while lacking the energy and crowds from a similar rally a year ago, still managed to draw an eclectic representation of the state’s grassroots cannabis movement.
At every turn, activists were comparing Tuesday’s turnout to a September 2021 rally to oppose a set of bills pending in Lansing that would have eviscerated the state’s caregiver system. That rally drew many hundreds of activists from across the state, intense media coverage, and even a billboard truck from an opposing lobbying effort. This time, activists were trying to put a good face on things.
“We were reacting to a threat. People were motivated. This is like a maintenance rally,” said activist Jamie Lowell, one of the state’s first caregivers.
Amie Carter, a prominent caregiver activist and organizer of the event, believes complacency has set in throughout the state.
“I think it really comes down to a lot of people are using the [adult use] law. A lot of people think that what we have is going to stay,” she said. “When you’re truly sick and you need medicine, you can’t always get that – especially pediatric patients.”
“Advocacy has taken a big hit since legalization passed in 2018. We have seen casual participation [in rallies] really dwindle,” said Rick Thompson, executive director of NORML and a speaker at the rally. “When people are afraid of pending legislation, they show up.”
Spread out over a couple acres of law, pro-cannabis groups had set up tables to sell t-shirts, a guitarist played a better than average Neil Young impression, and organizations ranging from pro-cannabis law firms to labor unions passed out giveaways like matchbooks and rolling papers in an effort to connect with cannabis supporters.
Working the edges of the crowd, United Food and Commercial Workers local 876 organizer Bill Phipps was trying to spread the word about his organizing efforts at dispensaries across the state. Workers at non-union dispensaries are earning $13 to $15 an hour, wages so low that workers see little reason not to quit if they see a better offer elsewhere.
“Sixty percent of budtenders are leaving their jobs in the first 60 days,” he said, claiming the turnover is making organizing dispensaries that much harder in Michigan, since workers don’t stay on the job long enough to organize. “A lot of people don’t make it the first year. They just hop from place to place. It’s like the food industry.”
A few steps away, Michael Thue was telling attendees about how he was subject to a “SWAT-style raid” at his cannabis consulting office in Traverse City. Thue, who calls himself a “cannabis patient consultant” says he was held for hours in handcuffs after “dozens” of police state police served a search warrant on Thursday, October 5.
State police confirmed to Grown In that their Marijuana and Tobacco Investigation Section served the warrant and were present at an office in Traverse City. Local publication mLive reports police seized “more than 400 suspected marijuana plants removed from a field, greenhouse and ‘basement grow’ at Thue’s residence, in addition to 50 suspected peyote cacti, six bags of suspected psychedelic mushrooms, a rifle, shotgun, $401 in cash, loose marijuana flower and stems.”
“We are operating under the Medical Marijuana Act,” Thue told Grown In. “This is how you go into enforcement?”
As Thue talked to Grown In, a speaker called out to the crowd from the Capitol steps, “This is bullshit. We have rights here. We gotta stay vigilant!” Next on the podium was an Air Force captain who proclaimed how cannabis had helped him with kidney disease.