Marijuana: Remembering "Michigan" Mike Torpie's Nederland legalization campaigner
Backbeat editor Dave Herrera broke the news that Nedfest music festival founder "Michigan" Mike Torpie had died at the age of 43. As Herrera wrote, Tarpie was a "vital, highly esteemed and beloved member of the [music] scene."
But his death is also a blow to the Colorado pot community, which lost a hero in the seemingly endless fight to re-legalize cannabis.
In 2010, Torpie led a nearly one-man push that eventually made marijuana legal in Nederland, the small town (population: roughly 1,340) he called home. After seeing Breckenridge pass similar laws earlier in the year, Torpie led a drive to gather the needed signatures to get the proposal on the ballot.
As marijuana activist "Wayward" Bill Chengelis wrote over the weekend: "You should be in the Guinness Book of Records for singlehandedly garnering the 65 signatures needed to put the decriminalization of marijuana on the ballot in Nederland. Your work was rewarded with a 54% win. That's a landslide in politics. So what's it like dude? Did they give you a harp and wings?"
Cannabis activist and Nederland resident Kathleen Chippi points out that the language Torpie crafted didn't just decriminalize marijuana, it completely removed marijuana laws from the books. "Breckenridge likes to talk about how they legalized up to an ounce, but they really didn't. This is the only place where there is no law to enforce for marijuana. I appreciate the work he did on that."
Michael Roberts interviewed Torpie back in April 2010, right after the Nederland initiative had passed. In it, Torpie quoted an editorial he had written for the Mountain Ear, Nederland's local newspaper. Though he brings up a lot of valid points about the specific situation in Nederland, one of the most powerful statements he made holds true for all of the decriminalization and re-legalization efforts going on right now:
"This measure is largely symbolic... a statement that Nederland is a progressive community of realists who recognize the hypocrisy of marijuana prohibition... and will put on the record that the voters of our Town believe marijuana use by adults should not be a crime.
This issue is about your civil liberties and the right to choose for yourself as an adult much more than it is about marijuana as a plant or a substance. Who is it for anyone to tell you what you can or can't put in your body... especially if it you are not hurting anyone else? To continue to suppress people's rights and liberties, let alone create an atmosphere of fear just because someone wants to smoke some pot and relax, is ridiculous. This is about your rights as a United States citizen and as a human being on this Planet Earth."
Thank you, Mike. This next bowl is for you.
"Michigan" Mike Torpie, circa 2004.