THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
16th August, 2011 2
It seems that hardly a week goes by that we aren’t treated to one of the numerous rants from our current Attorney General, Bill Schuette, carried by one corporate media outlet after another across the state. One thing that has been consistent is his overt hostility toward the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act; a citizen-led initiative passed by the voters back in 2008, and by no slim margin. It’s no secret that Schuette went “all-in” with his anti-Proposal 1 campaign - an effort in which he failed miserably.
Some political insiders suggest that Schuette aspires toward a future run for the US presidency, further continuing his lengthy reign as the proverbial “career politician” we’ve so often heard decried by Republicans, and his passion for media face-time very well could be a carefully crafted step in laying the groundwork toward that objective. On the contrary, many others feel that it was this earlier failure that now drives his obsession to have the law repealed or at the very least, gutted beyond recognition and usefulness.
I have no problem with Schuette’s prior marijuana use, but his pothead-turned-puritan image is a bit disgusting. He repeatedly complains that people bringing up his prior “indiscretions” is unfair. While he reluctantly admits to being a former recreational pot smoker, the “okay for me, but not for you” adage has never been acceptable to me, on any issue. Having Libertarian leanings, I subscribe to the view that one is free to choose how they conduct their own life and to believe in whatever ideals they see fit. Just don’t try to tell me how to live or what to believe in. Show me the same respect that you would wish from me, and respect my right to choose by refraining from forcing your views on others
Obviously accustomed to having his way, it’s apparent that Schuette is determined to defy the will of the electorate as a means to satisfy his own personal needs, and he will stop at nothing in the process.
Everyone feels the effects of state and local budgets that are being strained beyond their breaking point and revenue sharing has been drastically reduced, or in some cases, eliminated. Education funding has been slashed to levels unprecedented in recent history. Both public and private sector jobs and employee benefits are being lost on a daily basis. Record numbers of homes have been foreclosed on, and most people have been forced to cope with the realities necessitated by our current economic situation.
In spite of the woes we face, both as a state and as a people, personal fortunes aside, it seems that all is well in “Schuette’s world” of state government. As several cases related to the MMMA have begun working their way through the court system, Schuette has seized on those opportunities to intervene in nearly every one of them, supposedly on behalf of “the people,” and again using scant public resources to further his own personal agenda
In his latest move, Schuette has again teamed up with his like-minded comrades to achieve what he had earlier failed at. Like before, it’s no surprise as to what this group is again comprised of: current and former law enforcement leaders, prosecutors, Prosecutors Association, DEA, assorted socially-conservative groups, and lo and behold, with the grand master, Bill Schuette himself at the helm; everyone but those most vulnerable to the effects of his sinister plan, yet including everyone realizing the financial benefits of prohibition.
Although they claim neutrality and deny any negative involvement, it is suspected that the Michigan Municipal League may indeed play a role in these shenanigans, based on their previous involvement with the issue, statements and recommendations made during debate among municipalities, and on statements that they’ve had posted on their website. Also, our own local Representative, Kenneth Horn (R-Frankenmuth), has chosen to be party to these actions by sponsoring at least one of the 8 bills being proposed.
Attempting to frame these bills as “bi-partisan” in nature by having a couple Democrats signed-on, in truth, it is largely a Republican effort (you know, those same ones who say that they loathe “big gumn’t” – (Make note of that, as you’ll see it again later in this article).
While these operatives also attempt to portray this as the public’s will, it most certainly is not. This fact is supported by a recent poll conducted by Marketing Resource Group of Lansing, which determined - a full two years after the law’s enactment - that 61% of the citizens still support this law.
When announcing the introduction of these bills in the media, Schuette made the statement, “As I travel across the state, people come up to me and say…” (http://www.mirsnews.podbean.com) That statement is a fallacy, and is dishonest to the core. Schuette doesn’t travel the state and converse with the masses; the “little people.” The only people talking to him, or that he’s even remotely interested in talking to, are his close associates and those that he can use to further his personal ambitions.
Something else notable is the sheer absence of patients and patient advocacy groups in this medium of debate. To date, the input of these individuals and of organized advocacy groups has never been sought out. Further, when these groups have persisted in their attempts to have their message included and their concerns addressed, that input was flatly rejected, leaving no doubt as to what’s really at play: an organized, state-sanctioned coup d'état, designed to defy the voters’ wishes, and in the process, the needs of patients.
I earlier spoke of consistency. However, in Schuette’s case, consistency has proven to be the exception rather than the rule. With regard to the MMMA (and Proposal 1), note the following quotes; his own words, to be taken on face value.
In an October 7, 2008 article published in the Michigan Daily, Schuette stated:
“There’s nothing in this statute that would restrict, nothing that would prohibit and nothing that would prevent these pot shops and pot clubs and smoking co-ops that have erupted in California from coming to Michigan.”
Another prior quote, from an October 29, 2008 press release on behalf of his group, Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Kids, and echoed by media outlets statewide:
“California Experience + Proposal 1 = Michigan Pot Shops”
“…Despite the California lesson, nowhere in the text of Proposal 1 have advocates prohibited the creation of pot shops in Michigan. ‘There is not a single paragraph, sentence or word within Proposal 1 that prohibits pot shops from opening in Michigan, just like they did in California,’ " said Judge Bill Schuette, co-chair of Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Kids and a member of Michigan’s Court of Appeals.”
Just prior to that, Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Kids issued the following statements, in relevant part, in an October 2, 2008 press release:
“…Among many of the potential consequences that could result from passage of this flawed proposal, Citizens Protecting Michigan's Kids point to loopholes that would:
-- Allow use of marijuana without a doctor's prescription;
-- Allow a person arrested on any offense to use marijuana use as a "medical" defense in court;
-- Allow the opening of pot shops and smoking clubs in neighborhood strip malls, like has happened in California under a similar proposal… “
So, what is he saying now that the law has passed?
In a 4/10/2010 Petoskey News-Register story, Bill Schuette was quoted as saying:
“…We cannot have dispensaries in a commercial setting. The law does not allow for commercial dispensaries."
Published in the June 29, 2011 edition of the Ann Arbor News:
“Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a formal opinion today, declaring there are only two legal ways patients can get access to medical marijuana in the state. They can either grow it for themselves — 12 plants at a time — or they can get it from a registered caregiver who can grow 12 plants for each of as many as five patients. ‘But not allowed under the state's medical marijuana law,’ Schuette said, ‘are cooperatives where patients and caregivers jointly cultivate, store and share medical marijuana.’ Schuette's opinion also noticeably leaves out patient-to-patient transfers of marijuana, which is the business model many dispensaries follow, as an acceptable practice. Schuette has said publicly he believes the law approved by voters in 2008 did not authorize dispensaries.”
Intervening in the case, People v. Koon, Schuette submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the prosecution, in which he opined:
“The MMMA is unambiguous, and Michigan law consistently holds that, when reading such a statute, ‘no further judicial construction is required or permitted, and the statute must be enforced as written.’" He went on to further state, “The MMMA lays out in clear terms what it permits and what it prohibits.
In an amicus curiae brief on March 20, 2011, submitted in the case People v. Compassionate Apothecary, Schuette asserted:
“The Attorney General strongly agrees with plaintiff that defendants' operation of the business at issue is illegal because: 1) the transfer of marihuana from a primary caregiver to another caregiver or to a qualifying patient with whom the caregiver does not have a registered connection is not protected by the MMMA; 2) any transfer of marihuana from one qualifying patient to another is not protected by the MMMA; and 3) in any event, the transfers here are sales that are not protected by the MMMA. Not protected by the MMMA, all of these activities remain illegal under Michigan law.”
On June 28, 2011, in his official capacity as AG, Schuette issued the following opinion with regard to the “collective growing or sharing of marijuana plants”:
“The Act does not provide for the operation of cooperatives… Nothing in the language of the MMMA suggests that the majority of voters, in adopting the Act, intended that patients, primary caregivers, or any other individuals could form and operate cooperatives to jointly cultivate, store and share medical marihuana.”
This is a mere sampling of a much longer list portraying the two faces of Bill Schuette, but to the learned observer, the list of these inconsistent opinions seems endless. Although the MMMA has been his primary focus of late, it doesn’t stop there. Rather, it transcends into political ideology as well. For example, take these two very differing points of view concerning states’ rights versus federal supremacy:
At an October 10, 2010, "10th Amendment Rally" in Lansing, Schuette said, in relevant part:
". . . While our state and so many others stood firm with the State of Arizona to fight the federal government, and as your next attorney general, I will fight to be on the side of citizens and the people trying to protect the borders. My opponent sides with the Federal government, and I think that’s wrong.”
Is everyone clear on that point? Schuette declares that siding with the federal government is “wrong.”
“Let’s look at health care and the 10th Amendment:
You know I’m opposed to that big government, big spending, boondoggle that wants to separate you, us, from the doctors. That big spending, big government boondoggle wants to have the government choose your physician instead of you, and I think that is wrong. Now my opponent wants to stop the lawsuit. Our current attorney general filed a lawsuit to stop that federal government, big spending, big taxpayer, boondoggle. Now my opponent wants to dismiss that lawsuit. Ladies and gentleman, as your next attorney general, I will fight that healthcare, big government, big spending, every day as your next attorney general. That’s where I stand on the 10th Amendment!”
*Note the comment on the government choosing your physician. It will re-emerge later in a future article.
“So I understand the 10th Amendment. And I know the responsibilities that I, as your next attorney general, will have. So I will stand up for the Constitution, I will stand up for freedom, and I’ll stand up for sovereignty..."
To reiterate: “I’ll stand up for sovereignty.” Would that be as in “states’ rights”? Does he feel that the states have the power to pass laws that don’t coincide with federal law, and is he expressing a commitment to defend the state in those cases?
Posted on the State of Michigan website, January 5, 2011, (http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,1607,7-164-34739_34811-248945--,00.html) the following comments appeared, in relevant part:
“Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the renewal of Michigan's constitutional challenge to the federal healthcare law commonly known as "Obamacare." Schuette will file paperwork in the U.S. District Court in Florida adding his name as a representative of the People of Michigan in the case. Schuette's lawsuit questions the authority of the federal government under the Commerce Clause to force citizens to purchase health insurance and challenges the vast expansion of the Medicaid program in violation of state sovereignty under the 10th Amendment.
‘For the first time in history the federal government is forcing us to buy a product under the threat of a penalty, in violation of the U.S. Constitution,’ said Schuette. ‘I will fight Obamacare tooth-and-nail to protect our citizens from this constitutional overreach.’"
To further add to this point, posted on the Attorney General’s website in February, 2011, were the following comments:
"…As you may recall, when I ran for Attorney General, I pledged to continue the lawsuit against Obamacare and I'm thrilled with this ruling. It vindicates everything we've long argued, that there are real limits to the power of the federal government."
On August 2, 2011, AG Schuette appeared on the WSGW (www.wsgw.com) Art Lewis’ morning show. The topic of discussion was the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, and his efforts to overturn the Court’s ruling against that initiative. Quoting Mr. Schuette:
“…my job is to defend our Constitution and defend our laws.”
Contrast those previous statements with this one, whereby federal law happens to coincide with his views and/or agenda:
On January 5, 2011, in his official reply to the Court in the case, U.S. v. Michigan Department of Community Health, in which the federal government sought confidential patient records from the Department, rather than fight to protect our state law and our citizens, not surprisingly, Schuette willfully relented, stating:
“Pursuant to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, DCH understands it must comply with a valid court order to provide the requested information and that DCH, its employees and agents will be immunized from liability for providing information that is confidential under MCL 333.26426(h). Accordingly, DCH will comply with a valid order from this Court requiring DCH to comply with the DEA subpoena. The order should also make clear that, pursuant to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, DCH, its employees and agents will be immunized from liability for providing information that is confidential under MCL 333.26426(h).”
So, where does this all lead? “Our laws,” as Schuette earlier made reference to, include the MMMA. Yet, rather than “defend” this law – the people’s law – Schuette has worked through the courts and alongside a small group of openly hostile legislators to instead subvert the will of the people, beginning with a series of eight controversial legislative bills. This combination House/Senate, 8-bill package is clearly designed to undermine both the provisions and the intent of the MMMA, and panders to those same individuals and groups that opposed the MMMA from the onset.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)