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  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Higher Ground

Getting NORML

A brief history of the movement to legalize marijuana

Looking ahead to next month's long-anticipated popular vote to legalize recreational use of marijuana in California, it seems like a million years ago when I went to the West Coast in 1972 to campaign for the original Proposition 19 — the first California Marijuana Initiative.

Out of prison for only a few months and still celebrating the reversal on appeal of my conviction for possessing two joints that had forced me to serve 29 months of a 9-1/2-to-10-year sentence in the Michigan prison system, I had been recruited by my friend Mike Aldrich to join him on the board of directors of a pioneering marijuana legalization organization called Amorphia: The Cannabis Cooperative.

Amorphia was spearheading the campaign to repeal the state's laws against adult use, possession and cultivation of marijuana, and Aldrich was assembling a team of activists to tour the state's college campuses, give press conferences, and speak publicly on behalf of Proposition 19.

So, at his behest, I joined Keith Stroup, a young lawyer from Washington, D.C., who headed another fledgling organization called NORML — the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws — and a number of local luminaries to drum up support for CMI. As I recall, Keith and I went on to make appearances in Phoenix, Ariz., and Santa Fe, N.M., on the same legalization tour, had a ball, and became fast friends for many years to come.

Amorphia had been established in 1970 by Blair Newman to manufacture and sell Acapulco Gold brand rolling papers to raise money for a marijuana legalization movement that would include a media campaign, a news service, a speakers' bureau, court tests of pot laws, and funding expert witnesses to appear before state legislatures to lobby for legalization.

Further, Newman was convinced that when marijuana was legalized (by 1980, he projected), Amorphia could produce high-quality marijuana on communal farms and import the best foreign marijuana, then market its products under the Acapulco Gold trademark and use the expanded profits for social change.

Newman "estimated that the legal marijuana market would be about $3 billion a year," Patrick Anderson points out in High in America: The True Story Behind NORML and the Politics of Marijuana. "If Amorphia could control one sixth of that, it would gross $500 million a year and should have a profit of $30 million a year to put into social action."

"Let It Grow!" was Amorphia's battle cry as the Cannabis Cooperative took its first steps under the banner of "free legal backyard marijuana," and soon Newman brought in Dr. Michael Aldrich, head of Buffalo LEMAR and publisher of Marijuana Review, to join him in San Francisco as co-director of the ambitious little organization.

Already known as Dr. Dope and shortly to become founder of the FitzHugh Ludlow Memorial Library, Aldrich quickly teamed up with law professors Leo Paoli and John Kaplan to organize the 1972 California Marijuana Initiative as the first full-scale attack on America's insane drug laws. Their efforts led to placing Proposition 19 on the ballot by means of a genuine grassroots, all-volunteer organizing drive, and the initiative attracted a remarkable 33 percent of the vote — more than twice the predicted size. The movement was greatly encouraged by the election results and looked forward to fighting on to ultimate victory.

But Amorphia was already starting to stagger under the weight of what had turned out to be a very bad business decision: trying to develop the first hemp rolling papers for U.S. distribution, a proposition that eventually swallowed up all available funds and sent Amorphia's legalization activities into a tailspin.

The momentum generated by the surprising level of public support for Proposition 19 was picked up by Stroup and NORML, whose concept of correct strategy differed fundamentally from the approach adopted by Newman and Aldrich and their associates at Amorphia.

The groups had attempted to co-exist and work together during the CMI campaign and thereafter — Blair Newman had even moved to Washington, worked out of Stroup's basement office, and called himself co-director of Amorphia and deputy director of NORML — but Amorphia's business problems drove the legalization organization farther and farther from its chosen course of action in the political arena.

In the end, NORML prevailed and, finally, in 1974, Amorphia was folded into the NORML structure and reconstituted as the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

The next year, California NORML successfully lobbied the state legislature to pass the Moscone Act of 1975, which "decriminalized" marijuana possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, with a maximum $100 fine for 1 ounce or less. At this point, spirits were at an all-time high among the proponents of legalization, and the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976 after the eight long years of darkness drawn down over America by Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford raised our hopes even higher.

Stroup became intimate with the Carter administration and its drug policy director, Peter Bourne, and it seemed that NORML would lead the nation into a bright new future where the recreational use of drugs would no longer be a criminal matter.

But the legalization movement foundered on the shoals of a major scandal when Bourne, Stroup and their pals were exposed in media reports as snorters of cocaine at White House parties, and the carefully cultivated image of marijuana as a harmless, even benevolent recreational substance deserving of decriminalization at least was smeared with the brush of "hard" drug use. People in the government who had been leaning toward legalization began to back away from the issue, and the prospect of progressive marijuana legislation now being passed was effectively dead in the water.

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