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Medical marijuana advocate planning run for Tennessee's 6th House District seat

Zach Vance • Jan 30, 2018 at 11:46 PM

Telford resident David Michel has spent months building support for medical marijuana reform through social media and local gatherings, hoping to ultimately pressure legislators in Nashville into voting for legalization.

Now, he’s decided he wants to be that person voting in Nashville.

On Tuesday night, at a combined event hosted by Safe Access Tri-Cities and HEMP, or Help Educate More People, Michel confirmed he has picked up a petition and plans to run as an independent for Tennessee’s 6th House District in November’s general election.

Despite more than 60 people being in attendance, mostly supporters of medical marijuana, Michel held off on making a public announcement while he works to form a campaign committee.

“I have not officially made a public announcement. I’m still forming my committee, my secretary and treasurer. I’ve got a campaign manager now, who’s got some experience. I literally just picked up my form,” Michel said.

For the past six months or longer, Michel has been the driving force behind the Tri-Cities chapter of Safe Access, a political action group dedicated to supporting medical marijuana reform.

The local group has even doubled in size since September, when Michel hosted one of the group’s first meetings at The Willow Tree Coffeehouse in downtown Johnson City, which attracted 30 cannabis proponents.

So far, Michel has helped the local chapter’s Facebook page grow to more than 1,636 members, more than the other 11 chapters in the state combined.

That social media savviness is actually what made Michel finally commit to running for office last week, after receiving some initial encouragement from his wife and brother-in-law.

“My wife was like, ‘You need to run. You need to run.’ And her brother was saying, ‘You need to run for office. You don’t mind speaking to people and you’re willing to listen to people,’” Michel said.

“So I put on Facebook that they were wanting me to run (for state representative) and a bunch of people started responding. So I said, ‘If I get 100 likes (on the post)’ I’d do it. And I got it before the next day.”

Michel said he chose to run as an independent because he doesn’t “like partisan politics.”

“Partisan politics, to me is pathetic. It doesn’t help anybody,” Michel said.

David Hairston, chairman of Safe Access Tennessee, even came to Tuesday’s event to promote Rep. Jeremy Faison’s bill, which would legalize cannabis edibles, capsules and oil for medical use. Faison’s bill would not permit the medical use of smoking raw marijuana.

"You got to remember. Go look in the room there. Half the people are sick patients so it's difficult for them to come out. You're seeing people in braces (and) people in wheelchairs. You're seeing patients showing up and demanding their medical rights back,” Hairston said.

“We’ve spent this past year building and putting the infrastructure in place. David Michel has been a big leader. Why does (the Tri-Cities) have the No. 1 group in Tennessee? Because what David Michel’s done.”

While discussing his likelihood of getting elected, Michel referenced a poll conducted Tuesday by Nashville-based WKRN that asked viewers, “Are you more likely to vote for a gubernatorial candidate who supports legalizing medical marijuana?”

Out of the 2,477 respondents, 78 percent responded “yes.”

If elected, Michel said infrastructure improvements and attracting more “blue-collar jobs” would also be priorities.

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