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National Expungement Week
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A coalition of more than three dozen organizations working at the intersection of cannabis, racial equity, and reparative justice are gearing up for the second annual National Expungement Week (N.E.W.). From September 21-28, 2019, over thirty cities throughout the U.S. will be offering events featuring free clinics to help remove, seal, or reclassify eligible convictions from criminal records, as well as provide educational workshops, voter registration, and employment services.

Activists, organizers, teams of attorneys and volunteers nationwide, led by Cage-Free Cannabis and Equity First Alliance, have made over 40 events possible in almost twice as many participating cities as in 2018. Last year, the very first N.E.W. helped nearly 300 people to clear or seal their records. Over 400 people also received access to related social services and health screenings. 

Sponsors for these widespread events include Houseplant and Canopy Growth Corporations, NE.W.’s Michigan partners include African American Leadership Institute, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Om of Medicine, Delta Sigma Theta, Michigan Liberation, Iconic Hemp, Perpetual Harvest Sustainable Solutions, Michigan Cannabis Industry Association (MiCIA), Cannabis Legal Group, Black Men Stand, Loud.Social, Luv Infinite, Sticky Ypsi, Layfield Resume, Rising Star and many community-based organizations working towards repairing the injustices caused by the War on Drugs

“Too many people are locked up in this country, and far too many people are still locked out of society long after they’ve completed their sentence. This week offers a way to provide legal relief and wraparound services to justice-impacted people and their families while calling for automated expungement,” says Torie Marshall, director of programs at Cage-Free Repair [told the Michigan Chronicle].

Because of the widespread conversation regarding reparative justice in the cannabis industry, expungement is becoming a major part of reforming cannabis laws. The recently introduced marijuana expungement bill is part of a six-bill package that would expand expungement policy allowing more non-assaultive crimes to be cleared from records of people living in Michigan. The bill would give people with up to three, non-assaultive felonies or some traffic offenses to get their records cleared, it would give automatic expungement for certain offenders, it would allow forgiveness for acts where multiple felonies or misdemeanors arise from the same incident, and shorten the eligibility period for expungement from seven to three years depending on the crime. 

 “We are demonstrating that government can make good on its promises, especially to those who have been denied jobs, housing, and other opportunities because of their criminal record,” said Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director of Code for America. “Clear My Record is igniting change across the state and the nation.”

To further the importance of N.E.W., National Voter Registration Day is on Tuesday, September 24, 2019. Endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State as well as other National Election commissions and officials, this day gives millions of Americans the opportunity to vote through providing helpful resources. Many people find themselves unable to vote because they miss a registration deadline, don’t update their registration, or aren’t sure how to register. On Tuesday, volunteers and organizations will come together in an effort to broaden awareness of voter registration for those who may not register otherwise. In 2018, over 800,000 people used National Voters Registration Day to register to vote throughout the U.S. with the help of over 10,000 local volunteers. Uniting for a Common Purpose: National Voter Registration Day is a day of civic unity.

Attorney Robyn L. McCoy, who is also an educational advocate and attorney with the Michigan Children’s Law Center, said that “it is important that we educate people on how to redeem themselves and set aside their criminal convictions and that we do what is necessary to expand the expungement statutes so that more people are given the opportunity to clear their records, get a job and become productive citizens.”


List of Expungement Workshops in Michigan:

Detroit – Expungement Clinic, Career Services and Voter Registration

Date: September 21, 2019

Time: 12 – 3 p.m.

Location: Detroit Recovery Project | 1145 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, MI 48208 


Lansing – Expungement Clinic, Career Services and Voter Registration

Date: September 23, 2019

Time: 3 – 8 p.m.

Location: Union Missionary Baptist Church | 500 South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Lansing, MI 48915


Royal Oak – Legislative Panel Discussion and Voter Registration 

Date: September 23, 2019

Time: 12 – 2 p.m.

Location: Oakland Community College Royal Oak Campus | 739 South Washington Avenue, Royal Oak, MI 48067


Pontiac – Expungement Clinic, Career Services and Voter Registration

Date: September 24, 2019

Time: 5 – 9 p.m.

Location: Your Emerging Space


Detroit – (Resident Only) Expungement Clinic

Date: September 28, 2019

Time: 10a.m. – 3p.m.

Location: Straight Gate International Church | 10100 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI 48204

Ann Arbor Wellness Coalition – Podcast Episode!
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Om of Medicine partners with the Ann Arbor Wellness Coalition as a way to collaborate with holistic heath practitioners in our community. The Coalition will be hosting a Wellness Fair in downtown Ann Arbor on April 27th, 2019 from 10am-2pm located at the Joy studio (214 S. Main St. Ann Arbor, MI). Come by to learn of the natural health practitioners here in Washtenaw County!

Here is the episode our Community Outreach Coordinator recorded for the Coalition!

Periodic Effects Podcast Episode
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Our Community Outreach Coordinator was recently featured on the Periodic Effects Cannabis and Business Podcast out of Oregon! Listen to the episode here!

Read the episode description here: “If you’re living in a State that recently legalized a medical or recreational cannabis program, this episode is for you! This episode focuses on legalization in Michigan, community initiatives, political and research involvement, and the business landscape of a State going from a grey market to a legalized cannabis market with clear regulations. Today’s guest is Lisa Conine, the Community Outreach Coordinator with Om of Medicine, a cannabis “provisioning center” in Michigan.”

Consultative Approach
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We often hear from patients that we are truly unique and “one of the best in the country”. It is high praise that we are always honored to receive. But what makes this so? We do our best to make it look effortless, but in fact, a lot of strategic thought goes behind providing the best experience possible for our patients. While there are many ways we work tirelessly to provide a unique experience, I will just be outlining one, and arguably the most important, for this post.

One of the greatest features Om of Medicine is proud to offer is our focus on a Consultative Approach for the provisioning of medical cannabis.

In early 2010, Mark and Keith set out to see how dispensaries across the country set up their facilities. They were surprised to find that almost all were set up with one general counter for purchasing medication. Patients were expected to talk about their ailments shoulder to shoulder with other patients, often times with patients waiting in line behind them. Quickly they realized they wanted to create something different. Thus, the consultative approach was born.

Starting off with two private consultation rooms and now three at our new space, our facility is designed to bring patients into a private room where they can discuss options in a one-on-one setting with a trained consultant.

A feature like this allows patients to take all the time they need to digest (not literally) all of the possible medical applications of cannabis that are available to them. We have seen time and time again just how important this is.

For example: when someone is brand new to cannabis and full of questions, or when they are dealing with a life-threatening diagnosis like cancer, privacy is tremendously important.

Patients are able to learn about cannabis, the methods of administration, and the specific products we carry with the guidance of an Om consultant. This feature is FREE of charge. No appointment needed.

One of the biggest offerings we have for our patients is our full-time Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Evan Litinas and is available to assist patients in their cannabis journey. While he does not fill out certification forms, his role is to provide the next level of patient care and to facilitate research with the University of Michigan.

We follow a standardized approach to dosing for new patients and are engaging actively in research with the University of Michigan to test that standardized approach.

We track each patient’s journey and offer follow-ups with phone calls and emails, free of charge.

A consultative approach not only allows for personalized guidance but also allows for unique relationships to form. You can visibly see a patient’s demeanor change when you take them into a private room where they are able to sit down, take a breath, and think about their options. We have the privilege of getting to know our patients, learning about their lives and sharing in their journey. Not only are we able to take part in their healing but we get to hear about their promotions, their new house, a new baby in the family, an exciting vacation, etc. We are also able to offer a listening ear for their struggles at work, frustrations with the medical system, and sometimes, even a death in the family. Holding space for all of life’s experiences gives a rich fullness to the work we do every day.

If you have had a positive experience with Om, jump on over to our testimonial page and share your story! Share it with friends and family. Share it with your circles. Talk about it and do it often. Sharing our stories with cannabis is one of the most effective tools we have for dismantling prohibition.

Bringing Our Efforts Full Circle
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Unthinkable pain and injustice causes most of us to turn away. Even the most compassionate people can struggle to face the extent of the world’s sorrow. We all have our limits. However, there is a response in our society to take the most troubling topics and shove them under the rug. We do not want to bring them in to our daily lives. We are constantly being bombarded by terrible news from every outlet possible. An over stimulation of negative can sometimes cause myself to see other’s struggle as a burden, like I just don’t have the bandwidth to take that on… not today at least. It is tough to admit, but I am willing to bet I am not alone in that feeling. While that might be a necessary response sometimes, in the name of self-care, it can quickly turn into a numbing effect. A choice to permanently turn away. Furthermore, when we feel the problem is too large and we feel helpless, it makes turning away easier.

Prison populations are arguably the easiest to turn away from. After all, they were convicted of a crime, they serve their time and the system takes care of the rest, right?

A simple process we would all like to believe to be true. That would make it much easier.

Thankfully, many are awakening to the fact that the system is not so simple. One of the biggest culprits of the rising prison populations in the U.S. is the Drug War. The War on Drugs is a racist and oppressive policy, designed to give the appearance of being “tough on crime” when in fact, it is an excuse to lock up poor communities and minority communities, often times for non-violent drug offenses… all in the name of “justice”.

The Drug Policy Alliance reports that the amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs is $50+ billion.

The number of Americans incarcerated in 2016 in federal, state and local prisons and jails: 2,157,000, the highest incarceration rate in the world.

The proportion of people incarcerated for a drug offense in state prisons who are Black or Latino, although these groups use and sell drugs at similar rates as whites: 57 percent.

These facts drive the mission at the Om of Medicine. Ensuring safe access to medical cannabis and facilitating research are key values; but we also want to change policy. We want to end the mass arrests for a plant and help support those who have had their lives derailed by this system.

Furthering the cannabis movement as we work towards restorative justice and safe access for all – is the heart and soul behind what we do. 

Aligning with that mission, we are proud to have joined forces with the Prison Creative Arts Project. PCAP is a program at the University of Michigan that brings art workshops to detention facilities all around Michigan. This program offers the opportunity for students at the University to receive academic credit with participation in the program. Additionally, any student or community member can volunteer and receive training to facilitate art workshops. These workshops extend beyond the facilities. Opportunities are created for artists to sell their work and to impact the community outside of the cell walls. PCAP has a student branch of the organization and they asked me to speak at a meeting to share how we plan to collaborate with them and for what reason.

As some of our patients have already noticed, we have begun to raise funds at our facility for the program. These funds go to the purchasing of art supplies and reimbursements for travel for the volunteers working around the state to facilitate workshops. We will soon begin displaying art created from the program in our patient lounge, so stay tuned!

When I was asked to speak at the PCAP student group, I was sent a number of questions to prompt the discussion.

One question posed was: “What can we do to counteract the disparity between those with access to medical marijuana and those that are punished for the use of the drug?”

My number one answer is to vote for the legalization for adult-use in November. We say adult-use because the term recreational implies indulging in something that is “naughty”. Adult-use implies that an adult has the choice to partake in cannabis use responsibly.

Legalizing will stop the criminalization of a plant that has been used as an oppressive tool, especially for poor communities and communities of color. Legalizing in Michigan would be the first midwest state to legalize, encouraging surrounding states to follow suit once they see the tax revenue, decrease in opioid use, reduction in the illicit market, etc. Which would apply more pressure to the Federal government, as states continue to legalize, to de-schedule cannabis. We say de-schedule because even re-scheduling to a schedule 2 would do a disservice to society.

That first recommendation is the most important and urgent.  Something we can all do and see the positive impact immediately. Vote in November and in every election, educate yourself on those running for office, their position on drug policy, mass incarceration, etc.

De-scheduling would open up the gates for fair and robust research on cannabis. More research and information will help increase access for all by breaking down the stigma and expanding the use and understanding of this plant as a medicine.

The second recommendation would be to educate yourself on cannabis and the history of prohibition and talk about it – often. Talk about how the Drug War is a racist policy and how it has demonized a plant and the people who use it. When in reality, this plant has healed people and everyone deserves that chance for healing – regardless of race and socioeconomic status.

Speaking about these truths can help dismantle the stigma around cannabis. Ending that stigma can eliminate barriers to access.

When it comes to supporting PCAP, responses from patients have been extremely generous. People are eager to support their efforts. Many people have to take a moment and realize they have not thought about this topic or those incarcerated – a forgotten population. Once they make the connection, they give and express gratitude for the existence of such a program and their opportunity to support it. I believe when people are given a tangible way to help others, they will do it. Even if it is small, it makes an impact, and that helps chip away at the conditioned apathetic response to struggle.

A large reason we are supporting this program is to spark these types of conversations. Awareness and constructive conversation can bring compassion into the arena.

However, we have received slight push back which speaks to the elephant in the room.

“Well what about the murderers and rapists? Why should they get art classes?” 

My response to that honest question has been to admit that I struggle with that thought too. Especially if it is a specific case I can think of that truly disgusts me… my first reaction is no. They don’t “deserve” compassion… But who am I to decide that?

These questions are the most important because they challenge the very foundation and values of our criminal justice system. We act as if justice is black and white and it is not. Human error, emotion, ego, perspective, and biases are all present in each level of the judicial system. How could we expect a one-size-fits-all response to work?

When we think about crimes that go against societal norms and law – how do we want our response to look?

Is it lock people away and never deal with them again?

If we look at cases of individuals who will spend the rest of their lives incarcerated, are we willing to say we want people to never experience any type of humanity for the duration of their life? If they are locked up permanently, let’s just let them paint, okay?

If we turn our attention to individuals who do re-enter society after serving their time, how can someone be expected to be a positive and contributing member of society when we do not forgive in our society? If they carry around a felony charge which impacts their ability to get a job, housing, etc. They are not forgiven.

When we (society) sentence someone to incarceration, even after the most awful acts – we should require part of the process to be for looking at society and how we allow these issues to breed. How can we try to prevent future crimes? Are we doing everything we possibly can as a society to ensure that individuals have their basic needs met? Abuse, poverty, neglect, etc. can all contribute to someone getting to the point of committing a crime. If we cut funding for social services and then fill our prisons, we are not addressing the root cause of the issue. 

These conversations are so important to have at our facility because we see all walks of life. All ages, genders, belief systems, etc. We must be able to talk to each other, human to human, about human issues. We should constantly critique and question our methods of seeking justice.

We are partnering with the Prison Creative Arts Project as a way to promote compassion and restorative justice.

YES on PROP 1
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Frequently Asked Question: “How will legalization impact the medical cannabis program?”

We get this question A LOT & it is a great question!

Here are the top 6 things to know about adult-use legalization in Michigan:

  1. Legalization does not change the Medical Marihuana Program in Michigan. The program will remain in place. Patients still have the right to receive a recommendation from a doctor for medical cannabis and are able to obtain it from licensed medical provisioning center. Additionally, the tax percentage is only 9% with the medical program. The adult-use initiative would add on a 10% excise tax in addition to a 6% sales tax. That sounds like a large number but Michigan would have one of the lowest tax structures for legalization in the country. 
  2. Common misconception: Unfortunately, once legalization passes, that does not mean that anyone over the age of 21 is able to immediately purchase cannabis from medical facilities. A separate program for licensing adult-use sales will need to be established and rules will be defined before any licenses are given out. While legalization will immediately end the criminal penalty, we will have to wait a bit until the new program for adult-use sales is implemented. 
  3. Om of Medicine firmly believes in ending the arrests and convictions over the cannabis plant. We believe the War on Drugs is a failed policy that has been destroying communities for decades. With the passage of adult-use legalization in Michigan, the first state to do so in the Midwest, we are adding another nail in the coffin to prohibition. This would increase pressure on the Federal government to de-schedule cannabis which would open up opportunities for further research, banking opportunities for the industry, and end the arrests nationwide.
  4. PROP 1 would legalize the commercial production of Hemp in the State of Michigan. Hemp has been wrongly demonized along with cannabis and we are ready to see the production of hemp increase. This would allow Michigan farmers the opportunity to cultivate this uniquely sustainable crop which cleans the air and soil and can be made into a number of sustainable items like clothing & building materials. The legalization of industrial hemp would be a big win for our farmers and our environment.
  5. The language of the PROP 1 allows for home cultivation. We believe in the rights of people to cultivate this plant legally on their own property. Adults 21 years or older are allowed to grow up to 12 plants in a single residence. In addition, the language sets up the opportunity to obtain a license for a micro businesses – similar to a microbrewery and microdistillery–  to help ensure the future of small businesses in the cannabis space in Michigan. Micro businesses would be able to cultivate, process, and retail up to 150 plants directly to consumers – in house.
  6. As stated above, the program would set up a 10% excise tax at the retail level, in addition to Michigan’s standard 6% sales tax. The estimated $200 Million in new annual tax revenue will go towards improving our schools, roads, and local governments.

 

The most important piece of PROP 1 is ending the unjust 20,000 arrests a year for nonviolent marijuana possession. It is time we use our resources in Michigan for more productive goals. Help us create this positive change for Michigan by voting YES on November 6th.

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