December 24, 2017

Rick Thompson

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a smaller version of this bio is found on the Rick Thompson Wikipedia page.

Rick Thompson (born Dale Richard Thompson) is an American social justice reformer, cannabis activist, photographer and journalist. Born November 20, 1965 in Flint Michigan at Flint Osteopathic Hospital to Dale Thomas and Judith Ellen. He has one sister, Tamara Ann Valley, born October 23, 1966.

Thompson grew up on the north side of Flint and attended Johnson Elementary and Lowell Junior High School before graduating in 1983 from Flint Central High School. Thompson was a resident of the Flint Northwestern High School district but received a full-time transfer to Central. None of those schools are currently operating.

After graduation Thompson moved to Columbus, Ohio at the age of 17 to attend DeVry Institute of Technology. He returned to Michigan and attended the University of Michigan-Flint, where he authored a thesis on palentology in his sophomore year. Thompson attended Northern Michigan University in 1987, where he met his future wife, Teresa Ann Jankowski.

The two were married on September 29, 1891, on the banks of the Tahquamenon River near Newberry, a city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Together they had three children: Matthew Thomas and Melissa Helene, twins, and Macon Richard.

Thompson’s work history includes manual labor and a variety of sales jobs until the mid-1990’s, where he became involved in sales management for American Blind and Wallpaper in Farmington, Michigan. Thompson held retail manager and independent contractor status until he signed into an experimental management program at Art Van Furniture Stores. Thompson retained employment at Art Van in various locations from 2001-2010, when he left to work full-time in social justice activism.

In 2008 Michigan passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which provided protections for patients for their use of medicinal marijuana. In December of 2009 Thompson and his longtime friend, Rick Ferris, published the first edition of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine from their Big Daddy’s company offices in Oak Park, Michigan. Thompson was the Editor of the magazine(5) and was on the Board of Directors of Big Daddy’s (12). The magazine was published monthly, averaged 52 pages and retailed for $4.99. The last issue published was November of 2011.

Resistance to the new medical law from law enforcement began early, and Thompson began testifying to local communities in 2010(4). He has planned or led protests in Lapeer(9), St. Clair, Oakland counties(10) and at the state capitol in Lansing.

The offices of the magazine also contained an unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary and a hydroponics manufacturing and sales location called Big Daddy’s. In 2010 law enforcement in Michigan began raiding dispensaries(6); the MMMA did not expressly create protective laws for distribution centers. Dispensaries in neighboring communities Ferndale and Waterford were raided, as was a center in Lapeer County’s Village of Dryden(6). In response, Thompson, Ferris and other advocates created a dispensary trade organization: the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers (MACC). Thompson was elected to the Political Committee (27) and was given the role of Spokesperson(7).

MACC was run out of Thompson’s office at the Oak Park facility. Other notable members were Jamie Lowell (3rd Coast Dispensary); Ryan Basore (Capital City Caregivers); Wes Crumby; Magdalena Cox (Green Bee); Jim and Deb Amsdill (Blue Water Compassion). The group rallied with other advocate organizations, including the Michigan Medical Marijuaan Association, and brought over 8,000 people to the steps of Michigan’s Capitol Building in September of 2010.

In January of 2011 MACC sued the Michigan Attorney General to halt the disclosure of protected information (26).
Less than a week later the offices of the Medical Marijuana Magazine and Big Daddy’s were raided by Oakland County narcotics officers(2). Thompson and Ferris were both present during the raid and had guns drawn on them, although Thompson described the incident in dismissive terms. Cannabis, money and business products were seized.
Ferris would later serve two years in jail for the raid on the business and his home.

Although Thompson has been a known person and was occasionally quoted, the media frenzy surrounding the January raid put his face on nearly every newspaper in Michigan. During the year-long fight with state government A.G. Schuette instigated the local attorney in Chesterfield Township to attack one of the Big Daddy’s franchised dispensaries (there were five total) and then joined in on the resulting Public Nuisance lawsuit (1). The pro- and anti-marijuana groups in Michigan fought a fierce media battle in 2011 which saw officials directly respond to Thompson and the MACC message, including the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and the state A.G. himself.
Thompson squared off with an Oakland County Sheriff Department representative on CMN TV (22) in a town hall-style debate on medical marijuana.

By the end of the year the Big Daddy’s locations in Oak Park and Chesterfield Township were shuttered, the magazine was ended and several MACC principals were facing charges stemming from raids on their facilities.

In early 2012 Thompson severed from Big Daddy’s, and the MACC organization ended. In September he started an online journalism site called The Compassion Chronicles (35) with Ryan Basore, who was earlier that year convicted of federal drug crimes for his state-legal medical marijuana operation. In 2013 Basore was incarcerated.

In 2013 and 2014 Thompson documented the evolution and eventual failure (20) of a package of bills authorizing dispensaries in Michigan.

Thompson maintained the website and was the principal source of content until the site’s demise in 2016, which necessitated the launch of his new journalism project,


Thompson is a “a longtime board member of statewide groups that favor legalizing the drug,” per Detroit Free Press (30).
In his early years Thompson was taken to the picket line by his shopworker father during labor disputes in Flint. The elder Thompson worked at Plant 36, Buick City and other automobile manufacturing plants during the 1960’s through the 1990’s.

In high school Thompson immediately gravitated to the debate arts, joining school groups like the Model Organization of African Unity, the Model United Nations. In 1983 Thompson had attended seven events and was selected to join a group of students representing the USA in Mexico City at a debate competition called the American High School Model United Nations. The group of American students won nearly every award available to them, including individual awards to Thompson and other delegation members.

During the summer of 1983 Thompson attended meetings of the group People in Solidarity with Latin America, whose principal at the time was Michael Moore. Thompson attended and assisted with protests held by the group including one at Veteran’s Park in downtown Flint.

In 2009 the launch of the 4M Magazine was revolutionary in the state and brought Thompson into activism. His history includes partnering in the launch of the MACC; being on the initial Board of the Michigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access (23)(24)(37)(41); being on the Board of the Michigan chapter of NORML (47); a Director of the Repeal Today legalization movement of 2012; the MILegalize 2016 ballot proposal group (52); and being a Board member of the MILegalize 2018 ballot proposal group, which is a partner in the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

Thompson is equally well known for his testimony to the Michigan legislature and various Departments since 2009. Thompson was one of three advocates allowed to address a Senate Judiciary Committee in January of 2010. He spoke out in favor of or opposed to different bills proposed by Michigan lawmakers even since, including memorable sparring sessions with Republican Senator Randy Richardville, House Representatives Michael Callton, Klint Kesto and Rick Jones while both a Senator and a Representative.

In 2013 Thompson was part of a group who promoted the use of $2 bills to advance awareness of medicinal marijuana commerce (38). As a watchdog against removal of patient protections he fought against passage of a Pharmaceutical Grade Medical Marihuana Act (40)(41) and voiced opposition to obstructive passages in cannabis legislation (55).

Questioning of Thompson by the House Judiciary Committee in 2014 contributed to the failure of the Michigan State Police to legislatively create a pilot program featuring an oral swab test for THC presence, to be administered during roadside traffic stops (42)(44). Modified legislation supporting this program was introduced and passed during the following legislative session. He was ejected from a courtroom in 2014 for advocating too hard for a medical marijuana patient who had been charged with crimes (43). He has produced voter’s guides to cannabis-friendly candidates (46).

In 2017 he has delivered significant speeches in a series of meetings of the Licensing Board empowered with authorizing every licensed business under the state’s new medical marijuana business program, called the MMFLA, and to various House of Representatives Committees.

He was named 2015 Citizen Activist of the Year (United States) by a national industry publication (57).

Thompson has given testimony to local communities regarding the evolution of medical marijuana laws, including Royal Oak (3)(4), Ann Arbor (13), and to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act Licensing Board (36).

In 2016 Thompson was a Board member of the first MILegalize group (53).

In November of 2017 Thompson and the MILegalize organization submitted 360,000 signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State to place a legalization of marijuana proposal on the 2018 ballot (28).


As an activist Thompson began appearing on radio broadcasts in 2010, including CBS radio (11).
In 2011 Thompson began making appearances on Michigan Internet-based radio shows, including the Planet Green Trees Radio Show (48) hosted by attorney Michael Komorn. By the end of 2012 Thompson was a weekly contributor, a status he held until 2016, and it was here that he initiated his very popular The Cannabis News segment.

Also in 2012 Thompson joined the weekly broadcast of The Medical Marijuana Radio Show, later known as the Political Twist-Up Show, a syndicated broadcast on the real radio through WDTW, WKTG and WFNT. He maintained that presence through 2015.

In 2017 Thompson joined Jamie Lowell in starting the Jazz Cabbage Cafe, an Internet-based broadcast through the Cave Radio network. From the studio in Romulus, Michigan, Thompson and Lowell are joined by producer and on-air partner Derek Gauci.

Thompson has been featured on many other radio broadcasts, including a memorable election night broadcast in 2012 with nationally-known broadcaster Russ Belleville. Thompson is also an occasional guest on National Public Radio’s Michigan Radio (59).


Starting in 2009, Thompson was the principal author behind the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine. During the magazine’s run Thompson also authored articles on music including some published in a Detroit weekly. After the magazine folded Thompson began Internet journalism with a columnist spot on the Patch Network (37), which included an occasional feature on the Huffington Post and editorials in major newspapers across the state (25)(51).

Thompson made continued freelance sales to other interests during the course of his career after launching The Compassion Chronicles in 2012 (41), including stories in the print and electronic versions of High Times magazine, O’Shaugnessy’s (39) and other industry publications (56).

Thompson has been featured as a photographer or columnist in nearly all Michigan publications featuring cannabis life, including Culture Magazine, The American Cultivator, the Midwest Cultivator, The Burn Magazine, The Buzz Magazine and the Michigan Medical Marijuana Report.

In 2011 the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine was awarded by the Michigan chapter of NORML. In 2016 Thompson was awarded the Crystal Trichome Award as Journalist of the Year by an in-state industry news publication (58).

Among others, he published stories about the dangers of prescription pills and professional sports (16), Dr. Grinspoon and the ‘ensemble effect’ (17), more dispensary raids (21) and smart cities (19) for High Times Magazine.
He wrote about his personal experience with the Flint Water Crisis (18).


Thompson currently sells stock images through many of the major networks, predominantly of cannabis and cannabis lifestyle-related images. This includes the Getty network (14) and the Adobe family (15).

Thompson has documented the evolution of cannabis law reform and cultural expression in Michigan since 2010. His photos have become cover shots and centerfolds and are featured on posters purchased all across the state.

Thompson’s most relevant work in the photographic sphere involves the human side of illness and activism. He photodocumented cannabis effects on skin cancers with a patient from Michigan, which were widely shared. The event photography Thompson shares includes a memorable series of images from Occupy Detroit, from multiple Hash Bash and Monroe Street Fair celebrations, and concert work.

Thompson has photographed artisits like Snoop Dogg, Melissa Etheridge, 50 Cent, Bass Nectar, Trick Trick, Yellawolf, Paradime, Razor Ray and Tommy Chong, not all of which involved cannabis industry events.


Thompson was part of a significant town hall-style broadcast in 2011 on CMTV. He had a live debate with Saginaw County Sheriff and other experts via the MLive network (45). He appeared on the internationally-broadcast Ask Dr. Nandi television show focused on the subject of medical marijuana (49).

Thompson speaks at many of the annual Hash Bash/Monroe Street Fair celebrations in Ann Arbor (50).

In January of 2016 Thompson gave a presentation to the High Times International Marijuana Business Conference in Washington, D.C.

He was the moderator during the Michigan Gubernatorial Candidate’s Forum in 2017 (32), and has presented or organized many conferences and engagements in Michigan and other states.


Thompson is the founder of the Michigan Cannabis Business Development Group (MICBD) (29). That entity hosts conferences to educate small businesspersons on their opportunities in the cannabis industry.

In 2015 the MICBD Group featured a Conference in Flint, Michigan; in 2016 there were Conferences in Lansing (30) and Flint; in 2017 the events were Detroit (29), Traverse City, Ann Arbor (33)(35) and Lansing (31). Speakers at the MICBD conferences are a Who’s Who of cannabis experts and figures in the state, including sitting legislators Rep. Yousef Rabhi and Rep. Jeff Irwin; the head of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Shelly Edgerton; attorneys Matthew Abel, Michael Komorn, Barton Morris, Daniel Grow, Bernard Jocuns, Bruce Leach, David Rudoi, Jesse L. Williams, and many others. These conferences have received media coverage from affiliates of CBS, Fox News and other major outlets.

“Each time we gather we gain strength, and moving forward our voice will be one — they have no choice but to listen to us.” (7)

12. – photo1
28. (photo)