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‘Smoke and Mirrors’: Ypsilanti faces a dark $125,000 financial crackdown over marijuana

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Washtenaw County, Michigan – Political contributions of at least $125,000 have fueled efforts to repeal the new township of Ypsilanti rules governing the location of the marijuana business, although exactly who is funding the campaign remains a mystery.

The source of all the cash is a newly formed nonprofit in Michigan called Advocates for Michigan’s Future, according to A recent financial statement for the campaignbut this is where the publicly visible path of money ends.

The group paid between $10 and $26 per valid signature to the petition collecting firms to persuade nearly 8,000 people to sign a petition challenging New township division maps It governs the recreational marijuana sales site, according to disclosure and legal filings.

When that effort failed, the town of Ypsilanti received nearly 400 sheets of signatures seeking to file a separate proposal to voters banning the sale of marijuana in the town, according to township writer Heather Jarrell Rowe.

All political spending is done on behalf of the local polling question committee behind the effort, which calls itself Ypsilanti Township Citizens for Responsible Government and has not returned many calls seeking comment.

According to one expert, the structure of the political campaign leaves voters in the dark.

Simon Schuster, Executive Director of the People’s Republic of China, said the polling effort “speaks of black money” Michigan Campaign Funding Network.

“The lack of transparency in this process and its motives, and the unwillingness to speak with you is an indication to me of actors who want to conceal the true motives of this ballot proposal,” he said.

Dark money refers to political spending that aims to influence voters where the donors and the true source of the money are not revealed.

When it comes to cannabis – a Nearly $2 billion industry annually in Michigan – Schuster said it’s nothing new.

“When it comes to the recreational marijuana industry, particularly in situations where a significant amount of money is liable to be earned or lost, over the past few years there has been a significant history of using dark money to influence local law to achieve these ends,” he said.

It also left the elected leaders who drafted and approved zoning rules with no idea who they were against.

“I have no idea who is funding this petition campaign,” Brenda Stombo, the town superintendent, said in an email, calling the effort a “smoke and mirrors collection” and accusing the group of misleading townspeople.

“I really think they are big money for marijuana and they want to zoning,” she said. “I would never sign a petition funded by anonymous people who have unlimited dollars to spend.”

The first petition campaign failed, but the legal battle continues

Although nearly $100,000 was set aside for signature collection in March and early April, according to Disclosure of the campaignHowever, the first attempt to challenge Ypsilanti’s zoning law – the local law that governs places where different types of development can occur – appears to have failed.

Beginning in late February, the citizens of Ypsilanti Township began to be circulated for responsible government petition Seeking to challenge the zoning law and Maps Town Leaders Approved Maps Feb 15after an extensive process of updating.

The group had hoped to force a voter referendum, if successful, that would damage parts of local rules that allow a range of recreational and medical marijuana facilities as permitted uses in the borough’s industrial and commercial zoning, an area between I-94 and US 12 On the eastern border of the town, near Willow Run Airport.

But to do so Under Michigan law They needed signatures equal to at least 15% of local registered voters who voted in the last state gubernatorial election.

On March 22, with the 30-day deadline to force the vote looming, the group sued Ypsilanti Township and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in federal court, claiming that the law made success “almost impossible” in densely populated areas like Ypsilanti Town, Violation of its constitutional rights to “freedom of political expression and direct democracy.”

Read more: Group sues Michigan Secretary of State, Ypsilanti Town over Petitions Act

On March 26, the polling question committee submitted 7,895 signatures — more than double the amount requested, according to Jarrell Rowe. However, more than half were invalid after she and her staff compared her to voter lists, she said, and the town issued a letter on April 13 telling the group that it had failed to hold the ballot.

raised it A renewed round of legal claims From the commission, which has accused the town in court of misleading it about the exact date for filing the petitions — an allegation the town denies.

Speaking at the Ypsilanti Township board meeting on April 19, town attorney Doug Winters called the lawsuit “obviously groundless.” Winters said the language in the petition circulated by the group sought to deceive residents.

The petition states that local rules allow recreational marijuana to be sold “within five feet of homeowners in town,” a claim the attorney said was “completely false.”

Hannah Stoker, a Farmington attorney who represents the polling question committee, did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.

Second petition seeks to ban sale of marijuana

The group’s legal battle is still pending, but they have in the meantime filed another petition.

relied on it State Law Allowing ballot campaigns to completely ban the sale of marijuana in local municipalities, and hopes to bring voters into the August 2 primaries, a measure that reimposes a ban on marijuana use in the town of Ypsilanti.

But Press release on April 27 – The first public statement from the group out of court – a different tone. In it, Jassan Larsosa spokesperson, Candidate for mayor of Detroit last yearHe said the group is not against the cannabis facilities in town.

Instead, the committee was set up to “combat the discriminatory effects” of the new zoning law and “a lack of opportunities for social justice,” according to the statement, which accused officials of placing the marijuana business in “one of the most economically constrained areas of the town.”

Larsosa did not return a call and message seeking comment.

It also appears that the second petition attempt met the same fate initially.

Jarrell Rowe said in a letter issued Friday, April 29, that the petitions do not meet the threshold of valid signatures required to get the action on the ballot.

Who is supporting a campaign to challenge local marijuana rules?

While it is difficult to determine who is behind the Ypsilanti Township ballot measures, workers in the marijuana industry have played a large role in shaping local law elsewhere in Michigan through campaigns, spending significant sums in the process, according to Schuster, whose non-governmental organization seeks Profitability to highlight the role of money in Michigan politics.

In the town of Ypsilanti, the political spending disclosed thus far has come entirely in the form of in-kind contributions from Advocates for Michigan’s Future, a nonprofit founded March 18.

According to a disclosure of campaign funding, starting in the previous weeks, on February 25, the nonprofit was paying to print the petitions and spent $500 on “consulting” from Latrice Moore, the township resident who eventually filed it.

Michigan Records lists Markeytia Jordan as a nonprofit, along with a Detroit address.

Jordan also acts as the treasurer of the Ypsilanti Township for the responsible government. The group did not return several phone calls to a phone number listed in its campaign funding records.

A reporter contacted other people who records say they were paid for a consultation about the campaign in an effort to learn more about the group and its supporters.

Nicole Reed was reached by phone, her company Green Political Strategy, LLC received nearly $900 for consulting, and would only accept email questions and then not respond. Ty Buffington, who paid $2,200 for consulting work and was listed alongside Ann Arbor’s address in the disclosure, also did not respond to an email.

But Mark Gribner, Veteran Michigan Political Counsellor The Ingham County Commissioner, who received $500 for advice, revealed who had hired him.

Graebner, who said he provided technical expertise in the handling of petitions, referred to Sam Bernick, another political organizer and consultant, although Griebner said the money was likely channeled through a company and that he did not know the details of the petitions campaign in the town of Ypsilanti.

Bernick, described by Gribner as an “enthusiastic progressive,” worked to legalize marijuana in Michigan, according to the The website of his consulting companyand acted as a treasurer for polling groups across Michigan seeking to allow the sale of marijuana as local leaders chose to opt out, campaign finance records show.

In the town of Ypsilanti, Bernick appears to be working for an opposite cause. When contacted by phone, he declined to comment or hear questions.

“I don’t do press releases,” Bernick said.

More Ann Arbor news:

7 Key Tips on the Progress of Dam Removal of the Ypsilanti Peninsula

Ypsilanti shooting range gets final approval despite fears of gun violence

Here’s who’s running for the Washtenaw County, Township and City Board of Directors in 2022

Downtown Ypsilanti Street awarded the honorary title of ‘Black Lives Matter Boulevard’

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