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  • Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit

    Former American Idol contestant Vonzell Solomon weighs in on twerking, natural hair & CEO status. In 2005, recording artist Vonzell “Baby V” Solomon embarked on a journey that changed her life. At the age of 20, Vonzell made it to the top three on American Idol before she was eliminated. But that was not the beginning nor the end of her journey to stardom. Vonzell is one of more than two dozen artists on tour with YouTube sensation Todrick Hall, who is a former Idol contestant as well. Todrick gained notoriety for his fast food drive-thru songs and also for producing parody videos  —  based on popular Broadway musicals and songs. His tour, uniquely entitled Twerk Du Soleil (translation: twerk of the sun), is a combination of his popular YouTube spoofs. Both Vonzell and her ratchet alter ego,Boonquisha Jenkins, made an appearance in Twerk Du Soleil,which stopped in Detroit July 23 at Saint Andrews Hall. Boonquisha opened the show by facilitating a twerking competition among the audience. Next, Vonzell made a reappearance singing a fan favorite – Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Later, Boonquisha came on stage screaming “It’s so cold in the D! You gotta be from the D to […]

    The post Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race

    If a poll released this week is any indication of how the August 5 primary election will turn out, current Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano has reason to worry, Fox 2 reports. Ficano, who’s seeking a third term, polled in fourth place — behind former Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans, Westland Mayor Bill Wild and Wayne County Commissioner Phil Cavanaugh, according to Fox 2. The poll by Strategic Solutions LLC, showed 6.7 percent of respondents said they’d vote for Ficano, which isn’t so bad: He finished ahead of County Commissioner Kevin McNamara (who came in at No. 6) and someone literally described as “a candidate not named here” (who polled at No. 5.) If you’re planning to head to the polls — which you should! — and need some input on the candidates and ballot proposals, you can read for our election coverage in this week’s Metro Times.

    The post Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • A Mad Decent Mixtape

    Mad Decent Block Party will roll through town on Saturday, August 16, bringing to town artists like Dillon Francis, Diplo, Flosstradamus, RiFF RAFF, Keys N Krates, and Zeds Dead. Thugli, a Canadian duo, will perform on the Toronto leg of the tour and they put together a 45 minute mix that features songs by some of the tour’s featured artists as well as a host of others.  Listen to it here. 

    The post A Mad Decent Mixtape appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders

    Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host a special event this Saturday, July 26 in hopes of raising money for the local faction of an international nonprofit, Burners without Borders Detroit. Breaking Borders is a one-evening-only event that will feature live music, performance, and art. Satori Circus will perform along with spoken word artist ZakAndWhatArmy. Music by Tartanic, Dixon’s Violin, and Servitor. Fire dancers, hoop performers, and acrobats will provide a certain mysticism to the ambiance as old Victorian steampunk and tribal art is shown in the main gallery. There will also be a runway fashion show and the evening will end with a dubstep rave featuring DJ Forcefeed and Dotty. Truly, there’s something for everyone. Perhaps more importantly, there will be a full service bar. The event is open to those 18 and older and IDs will be checked at the door. Admission is $25 at the door, or $20 with the donation of a canned good. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the party goes until 2 a.m. A 20 percent commission will be taken from all art sold at this event and donated to Burners without Borders. The Tangent Gallery is located at 715 Milwaukee Ave., Detroit; 313-873-2955; tangentgallery.com.

    The post Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project

    By Amanda Mooney There’s a lot that goes into producing a film, and unless you are a filmmaker you really have no idea. Writing, casting, finding a location, shooting, and editing; each step of the process can take days, months, and sometimes years to complete. Can you imagine doing it ALL in just 48 hours? The 48 Hour Film Project is an annual competition that takes place all over the world in various cities. According to Mike Madigan, head of the Detroit 48 Hour chapter, the city is one of the largest participating in terms of the number of teams. The competing teams go in blind as to what kind of film they will be producing, with no creative planning beyond getting a cast and crew together, Madigan explained. “They pick a genre out of a hat, and they get a line, a prop, and a character. And they have to incorporate that within a short film, that’s usually between 4 to 7 minutes long. And they have the timeframe of doing it all within 48 hours,” said Madigan, “So all the creative process of it all has to happen within that 48 hour–writing a script, putting it together, editing–to […]

    The post 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space

    Church: Revival is the new project by local rap duo Passalacqua (aka Bryan Lackner and Brent Smith), but it’s more than just a new Passalacqua release. The rappers teamed up with siblings Jax Anderson (frontwoman of rockers Flint Eastwood) and Seth Anderson, who together form the songwriting team called Syblyng (naturally). The result is a cycle of songs that promises to be darker than Passalacqua’s material so far. The project will make a live debut on Saturday, July 26 at a brand new venue space at the Detroit Bus Co.’s building Eight & Sand, and they will premiere the Right Bros.-directed video for the track “Baptism” as well. Other performances include Tunde Olaniran and Open Mike Eagle, and DJ sets by Nothing Elegant, Dante LaSalle, and Charles Trees. We met up the two duos at Eight & Sand to check out the new space and to talk about the project with all parties involved. Metro Times: How long have you been working together? Jax Anderson: Seth and I are constantly writing songs together. We want to push in the direction of becoming songwriters more frequently. This is our first project that we took on to co-write everything together. We’re basically just a songwriting entity. We won’t play live that […]

    The post Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Higher Ground

Law and disorder

Legal battles over drug testing, grow operations and ordinances continue

Even though it's not an election year, when it comes to medical marijuana, you have to consider Michigan a battleground state. The battles over who, where, when and how medical marijuana can be used and distributed are being fought in the courts, and although some of them may be settled this year, it will probably take another couple of years before all of the present cases are finally put to rest.

One of the key cases is the American Civil Liberties Union suit against Wal-Mart for firing Joseph Casias. Casias, of Battle Creek, is a cancer patient who uses medical marijuana at his oncologist's recommendation. After injuring his knee at work he took a required drug test, which found he had been using marijuana — legally under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

"There are now two big motions before federal Judge Robert Jonker that were argued back in November," says ACLU of Michigan staff attorney Dan Korobkin. "One is a motion to remand the case to the state court. The second motion, Wal-Mart filed to dismiss the suit entirely. ... It was a fairly lengthy hearing and we expect a ruling any day now. He [Judge Jonker] has to decide the first motion, whether the case is heard in state court or federal court. If it stays in federal court, then he'll rule on the dismissal. This is the first big case in Michigan about the rights of medical marijuana patients who also have jobs. This is a case about whether a medical marijuana patient has to choose between making a living and supporting a family or treating a medical condition and pain based on the advice of a doctor. When the law was enacted, citizens said you shouldn't have to make that choice."

Once those motions are ruled on, and assuming there are no appeals, then the actual case will be argued — or be done with if Wal-Mart gets its way. Casias was named Associate of the Year in 2008 at the Battle Creek Wal-Mart and had an exemplary employment record.

"Following all rules of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act protects you from being fired by Wal-Mart or any other employer," says Korobkin. "We don't argue that you can use marijuana and show up at work under the influence. He was fired for just being a medical marijuana patient."

In an unrelated case, the ACLU has sued Livonia, Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham on behalf of registered medical marijuana patients Linda Lott and her husband Bob, who live in Birmingham. Linda has multiple sclerosis and Bob, her caregiver, has glaucoma. He would like to grow marijuana in a Livonia warehouse he owns, and she would like to medicate at a private social club she belongs to in Bloomfield Hills. In the past year, each of those cities passed a law completely banning medical marijuana in defiance of state law.

"How can a city completely ban medical marijuana?" asks Korobkin.

They've done it, but now we'll eventually find out if they've done it legally under Michigan law.

While medical marijuana is legal under state law, it isn't under federal law. That issue is also playing out in the case of five Okemos growing facilities that were raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency early in December, where investigators allegedly found more than 400 plants. The federal government has a policy of not raiding medical marijuana facilities that are in full compliance with state law, so maybe they believe these growers were doing something wrong. So far, aside from breaking up grow operations and depriving patients of their medication, it has come down to a tussle between the DEA and Michigan's Department of Community Health, which administers the medical marijuana patient and caregiver documentation.

The DEA wants the state to turn over personal records of individuals it is investigating. However, there are potential civil and criminal penalties for violating confidentiality promised in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. Whoever actually hands the records over to the feds could be liable. As it stands now, Community Health officials are seeking immunity from prosecution if they turn over the records. The Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs, a medical marijuana support organization, has filed an injunction opposing the DEA's records.

"That's a damn interesting case," says attorney Matt Abel of Detroit's Cannabis Counsel law office. "There are a lot of factors; one is federal supremacy, which is well established. However, medical marijuana patients and caregivers have privacy rights guaranteed to them under state law. Whoever gives documents to the feds is violating state law. Can the federal government give immunity for violating state law? If the court orders that records be turned over, it will have a chilling effect on medical marijuana patients."

Abel is not personally involved in the case but, as a medical marijuana activist, he keeps an eye on legal developments. Another case he's watching is the recent raid on the complex housing Big Daddy's Compassion Club and Big Daddy's Hydro in Oak Park. Oakland County sheriff's deputies raided the complex owned by Rick "Big Daddy" Ferris on Jan. 12. They took money, marijuana and equipment, but oddly, no one has yet been charged with anything. Police said that some drug dealers busted elsewhere in Oakland County claimed they got all their pot from Big Daddy's — although there was no discussion on whether the alleged dealers acquired the marijuana from Big Daddy's legally or not.

What the raid did do was show once again that Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper and Sheriff Mike Bouchard want to keep their boot heels on the neck of medical marijuana in their county. In August, sheriff's deputies busted two alleged marijuana dispensaries in Oakland County.

"Oakland is the most difficult county to deal with, the most unreasonable," says Abel. "They have the largest budget, the largest staff, a conservative bench, and a whack-job prosecutor. ... In the Big Daddy's case they didn't charge anybody right away. It was a smash and grab, take your stuff and then you have to prove that they don't have the right to it. It's a bad incentive for the police. They don't take things they believe were purchased with drug proceeds. They take things they can get money for at auction."

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