FLINT- It started with an idea, which became a series of conversations, which evolved into a press release and an article in the Detroit Free Press. From that point on, Michigan’s $2 bill program to illustrate the economic impact of the marijuana community could no longer be contained within the Great Lakes State.
The promotion ran from July 10 to July 31, 2013, and the concept is very simple: marijuana law reform advocates used $2 bills during everyday purchases in hopes of inspiring conversation and illustrating the purchasing power of the cannabis community. It worked very, very well.
The initiators of the project include Donny from Metro Detroit Compassion Club, John from Culture Magazine, Steve Greene from the Political Twist-Up Show radio broadcast and myself. After a June 26 press release, Greene set up a photo shoot with Detroit Free Press journalist Bill Laitner. The news article Laitner created stirred things up in Michigan, but when USA Today and the Associated Press picked up our story the nation leapt to join in.
Within Michigan the message has been passed from non-profit organization to medical marijuana centers everywhere. Roger Maufort of the Jackson County Compassion Club wrote, “Jackson Co Compassion Club has been passing out $2 bills since the beginning and will continue to do so. 5/3 bank is keeping a supply on hand for them so they don’t run out.” Activists at centers in Ann Arbor have created signs to explain the promotion and kept the bills on hand to exchange for their visitors.
The message was not contained within the marijuana community. News reports were featured in the Macomb Daily, Livingston Daily, Oakland Press, Michigan Radio, WWJ and numerous other stations and publications. Michigan Lawyers Weekly featured the article on their website. TV stations from Detroit to Marquette (and everywhere between) ran the news.
Candidate for Detroit City Council George Cushingberry Jr. was recently featured in a wonderful article by Metro Times columnist Larry Gabriel. Cushingberry Jr. is a former state representative and a longtime politico- and a supporter of marijuana law reform. Gabriel heard about an appearance by the candidate at Woodward Health Solutions from an article on The Compassion Chronicles and there met Joe White, Detroit civil rights advocate and member of the Michigan NORML Board of Directors. Joe White knew about the $2 bill program. So did WHS Director Greg Pawlowski.
When I asked Cushingberry Jr. to hold my $2 bill for a picture he waved me off. “No need for that, young fella,” he said to me as he withdrew a $2 bill from his wallet. “I’ve been doing it, too.”
Television and radio stations in Indiana turned the story into news. Websites in California, Georgia,Wisconsin and New Jersey followed suit, among many others. Associated Press stories are usually featured in newspapers in every state.
Here’s a personal email I received from Chris Cicogna, a non-activist from Phoenix, Arizona:
I work for (a major national banking chain) and on July 14th, someone came in and withdrew all of our $2-s. He explained the idea, and I actually signed a legalization petition. That day I grabbed $800 worth of $2-s from our vault and I have been handing them out like crazy! (I only have $86 left of the $800). I even asked my manager to order more $2-s for me. I wanted you to know that your idea went across the nation.
The $2 bill plan was broadcast in places where American $2 bills are not available, too. USA Today has an international readership but international news sources carried the story to the rest of the globe, including World News Views.
On July 29 John Bennardo, a documentarian from Florida, flew to Michigan to film a segment of his upcoming documentary about the $2 bill. A group of $2 bill program enthusiasts were interviewed for the upcoming video, including myself, Greene, Jamie Lowell from 3rd Coast Compassion Center in Ypsilanti and Christeen Landino, a Board member of Michigan NORML. Landino created a social media group for the $2 promotion and is a huge fan of Thomas Jefferson, the wise founding father whose face appears on the currency.
STRING OF GOOD NEWS
The publicity from the $2 bill campaign is the latest in a string of positive national stories about cannabis originating from Michigan.
The tale of Curtis Kile, a cerebral palsy patient who trekked 520 miles from metro Detroit to Washington DC in support of cannabis awareness using only his electric wheelchair, was also featured by the Associated Press. After a June 27 article on TCC and a subsequent press release, Laitner did a Free Press story on July 1st. Kile arrived in DC on July 3rd and was a featured speaker at an Independence Day rally for human rights. His journey began in relative obscurity but ended in media accolades. Curtis joked that he had spent four hours straight doing interviews; the story captured widespread media attention from July 1-5th.
Michigan Compassion announced early in 2013 that they had secured a big grant from search engine giant Google, but the news was largely ignored. A press release on June 19th sparked the interest of the business world and the story exploded. The $240,000 in-kind grant is not the only one Michigan Compassion has received but it was the most public- and the media storm that followed has sparked conversations on television networks and in Internet chatrooms. The story was featured on the Huffington Post, business insider news sources and many others. Michigan Compassion is a federally-registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
On June 26, a federal judge in Michigan’s Eastern District ruled that a man who had been arrested with 8,000 marijuana plants was entitled to leniency and sentenced him to two years probation and one day in jail- and waived that single day because of previous ‘time served’ while awaiting trial. “You’ve lived a good life,” was Judge Bernard Friedman’s statement to the accused, who is a throat cancer survivor. That story was again reproduced by USA Today and the Associated Press and was featured on national television talk shows and in political roundtables across the nation. Friedman’s ruling was delivered at the Theodore Levin Courthouse in Detroit.