Marijuana pioneer reflects as pot sales become legal

Marijuana in MI

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Recreational marijuana is days away from being a reality.

But that didn’t happen by accident. It has been the product of a lot of work by many activists and those who see a profit on the horizon.

“Like anything in the world, it just takes time to change attitudes, but I think we’re over the hill. Anybody who gets in front of this snowball is just going to become part of the snowball,” said David Overholt, an active-duty and Army Reserves veteran.

Overholt was injured in an accident that broke his back 20 years ago that led to opioid pain-killer addiction.

He says it was marijuana that allowed him to break a seven-year dependency. After that, he became an evangelist for the benefits of marijuana.

In 2013, that advocacy led him to trouble when he famously was arrested by Grand Rapids Police Department, which raided his Leonard Street dispensary.

Overholt pleaded no contest to felony possession and distribution charges to avoid prison on more serious charges of running a drug house.

“I got a raw deal in Grand Rapids, but hopefully someday with all the hard work I’ve been trying to do for the community. Hopefully, someday, I’ll be recognized by the governor for a pardon,” Overholt said.

Ironically, it is that felony conviction that keeps him from being able to operate a marijuana dispensary whether medical or, starting Sunday, recreational.

But he has remained in the battle to reform Michigan marijuana laws by working with lawmakers and Attorney General Dana Nessel.

He remains critical of what he sees as government obstruction to the will of the people on marijuana, especially in Grand Rapids, which has a complicated legal scheme that will likely result in no recreational sales before late summer.

“Grand Rapids mucked it up so bad and allowed the rich and famous here, and this was designed for the people of these communities to prosper,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. I can’t tell you the joy that runs through my body every day for the people who do have safe access across the state.”

He continues to fight in his hometown of Sidney in Montcalm County, where he is working to overthrow the local government’s ban on marijuana with a ballot initiative planned for the March ballot.

“It’s never going to end, we have to build a bridge between law enforcement and the marijuana world,” he said.

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