By Ted Kleine
The poster for HempAid 2000, a Memorial Day pot party at Rainbow Farm, showed a clean-cut couple setting a "Marijuana Welcomed" mat on their front porch. Past HempAids have featured hippie music and camping in the farm's clover-flecked meadows. But this year's event was also a political rally for the Personal Responsibility Amendment (PRA), a ballot proposal that would give Michigan the most liberal marijuana laws in America. Petitions were passed around like pipes, and by the end of the weekend, 550 revelers had signed their names. "We're getting overwhelming response," says Derrick DeCraene, Rainbow Farm's entertainment coordinator.
The PRA has the support of an odd bag of anti-government Michiganders. All the head shops, from the Glass Onion in Kalamazoo to Su Casa Boutique in Lansing, have PRA petitions on their counters. The amendment, which needs 302,711 signatures (10 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election) to get on the November ballot, would make it legal to possess three ounces of dried marijuana and three plants.
The chief architect of the amendment is Saginaw attorney Gregory Schmid, a self-described "conservative Republican" who last stuck it to the state when he helped pass term limits for legislators in 1992. "We have a huge libertarian movement and a healthy disrespect for government in our state," Schmid says. "Some people call us 'Militiagan.' "
Schmid introduced the amendment because he's livid at police, prosecutors and judges who are shanghaiing potheads into the prison system. "The War on Drugs is a $50 billion fraud on the taxpayers," he says. "It's poison for America. It feeds the growth of bureaucracies."
If the PRA gets on the ballot, Schmid predicts it will get 55 percent of the vote, a figure he deduced from the support for medical marijuana initiatives in other states. Seven states and the District of Columbia have voted to allow doctor-prescribed marijuana. The following year, a Gallup poll found that 73 percent of Americans thought it was O.K. to smoke marijuana as long as you had a note from your physician.
Back down on the farm, owner Tom Crosslin and manager Doug Leinbach have more personal reasons for supporting the PRA. Crosslin has a brother-in-law who spent seven years in an Indiana prison for a dope deal. Leinbach quit a banking job after his employer told him he'd have to take a urine test. "I was corporate banker for nine years, and I smoked marijuana every day," says Leinbach, who has grown his gray hair long and shed his suit in favor of a baseball cap and jeans. "I didn't do it at work. I did it after work to relieve stress."
Both men agree with Schmid that Michigan is ready for liberal marijuana laws. They may be right. Michigan is the Midwest's answer to Oregon: a state peopled by back-to-the-land environmentalists, anti-death penalty progressives and paranoid right-wing militia members arming themselves against an invasion by the United Nations. The only pocket of true Middle American conservatism is in Grand Rapids, the heartland of the Michigan Republican Party. "People in Michigan want to come out to the country, enjoy their freedom and get away from the constraints of the city," Leinbach says. "Michigan's always been liberal in that respect."