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  • 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.

  • City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May

    Margaret Doll Rod will celebrate the release of her new EP, Margaret, with a show at PJ’s Lager House on Saturday, May 10. A statement reads, “The EP contains 3 new original songs and one Chrome Cranks cover with Italian actress Asia Argento singing background vocals. Margaret moved to Italy after the end of the Demolition Doll Rods where she still lives touring and performing festivals in Europe. The Dollrods were a Garage Rock force for over 20 years, opening for Iggy, Jon Spencer, The Scientist, The Monks and The Cramps. Margaret was the front person and principal songwriter for The Dollrods. Her chief musical foil was Danny Kroha, who joined the Demolition Doll Rods after the now legendary Gories called it quits. Margaret’s sister, Christine, on drums, rounded out the legendary trio. Margaret will do a special performance in the round that night with a 360 degree revolving stage and special guest DJ Adam Stanfel.” The bill will also feature the Stomp Rockets and the Volcanos. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

    The post City Slang: Music review roundup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

    The post Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Higher Ground

Getting organized

Compassion clubs embrace new statewide group

It was a display of the worst behavior — publicly taunting a 7-year-old girl in the late stages of Huntington's disease on a Facebook page. However, in the wake of that atrocious act by a neighbor, the outpouring of support for Kathleen Edwards, the young Downriver girl, was an equally heartening outpouring of the best of human kindness.

Kathleen was showered with donations from around the world, a trip to an Ann Arbor toy store, and a couple of thousand people attended an Oct. 23 rally in her support at Trenton's Elizabeth Park. Among Kathleen's gifts there was a $350 gift card and a five-day trip to Kalahari Resorts in Sandusky, Ohio, donated by the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers.

"The public needs to know who we are," says Ryan Baser of the Capital City Caregivers, a medical marijuana compassion club in Lansing. "We want to show everyone that we're here to support the patients and the community. We're doing food drives in Lansing, Ypsilanti, Port Huron and Detroit. We're starting a coat drive for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In Lansing, there's a local toys program where a police officer takes kids shopping that we're participating in."

It's the kind of civic involvement you hear about from local business associations around this time of year. Except the MACC is an unknown entity, and their business is, shall we say, controversial. Some observers might look at their charitable activities with a jaundiced eye. They might say that it's a public show that covers up their shady activities. It takes some getting used to. But MACC members seem to be trying to maintain their business openly and legally under intense scrutiny from local governments and law enforcement.

The MACC was organized in the wake of the August busts of two Oakland County "compassion clubs" that authorities alleged were illegal marijuana dispensaries. There was obvious concern at other places that were involved in marijuana exchanges that they might be next.

"We saw the horrible way some people are being treated, how patients and caregivers were violated," says Jamie Lowell of the Third Coast Caregivers in Ypsilanti. "We need to protect our collective membership. There was a void in community where someone needed to step up and get rallies organized, find legal help for those who need it, help out on political campaigns, and promote good neighbor policies and attitudes."

There are 10 compassion clubs in the MACC, and they're said to represent a combined 6,000 patients mostly in southeast Michigan. The member organizations pay a $1,000 initiation fee plus $300 a month. They meet every two weeks and are in daily contact through e-mail. Like other business associations, they set standards among their membership. When a compassion club wants to join, they talk to them about staying within the law.

"We've started working to set a standard for the rest of the state in how to operate the correct legal way — how to do business, how to treat patients right, how to do security, how to work with local municipalities instead of against them," says Baser. "Our main focus is protecting our patients. Anytime there's a case and something going on that's not fair, we'd like to send a lawyer, legal representation, so they are not railroaded. Most of these people didn't do anything wrong in the first place."

Of course, there are areas of the law that are still being sorted out by the courts, and one of those gray areas is whether and how marijuana can change hands in compassion clubs.

MACC members expect to have their nonprofit status verified this week and start admitting new members next week. Several additional memberships have been unofficially approved. When a compassion club asks to join, the MACC does things you might expect of more conventional business associations. They send members to the clubs unannounced to check out the security and see if they are properly checking state cards.

"It will help a club to achieve these standards," Lowell says. "If they are good people, we try to help bring them up to snuff in our opinion. Most places that are in operation came through our place, Third Coast, because we were the first one up and running. We've taken that seriously to be a model, although we have room to grow and room for improvement. But we have to get on the same page with a lot of people. I mean law enforcement, municipal officials, patients, caregivers and doctors, we all should have the same understanding of this law so you don't have to go through criminal proceedings or lawsuits."

As the fronts on the drug war evolve, it's going to take time, education and communication to get past former attitudes and entrenched positions. Some areas are going to change faster than others. Bayer says that things are working well in the Lansing area, where Ingham County officials have been "incredibly supportive." Bayer gets a bit giddy in touting some 25 medical marijuana-related businesses in Lansing that are positively impacting the local economy. But then you can't blame him for being a little giddy.

"I actually got pulled over by the Michigan State University police with four big marijuana plants in my car," he says. "They ended up letting me go. I talked to them for about 30 minutes; they were pretty interested. At MSU, if you have your card and less than 2 ounces of marijuana and aren't staying in any federally funded housing, it's not a problem. The head detective told me that's how they are handling things. It was a positive police experience."

Maybe we can all be on our best behavior as we work our way through this medical marijuana moment in Michigan.

Medicated feds:
While the federal government has officially denied that marijuana has any medical benefits, it's a different story behind the scenes. The U.S. government actually holds a patent for the medical use of marijuana. U.S. Patent 6630507, granted in 2003, and titled "Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants," is held by the United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services. The abstract to the patent reads: "Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This newfound property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation-associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example, in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and HIV dementia." One of those cannabinoids is commonly known as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the component of marijuana that gets you high. Does this mean that, when the ground-level compassion clubs build up the market, the government will swoop in for a piece of the action? At the very least, the government's hypocrisy about medical marijuana is evident when they deny that marijuana has medical value while it holds the patent for the medical use of the substance.

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