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SHERIDAN, Mich. (WOOD) — The government has declared marijuana sales and services an essential industry, exempt from the governor’s shutdown order aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

In a small town in Montcalm County, a group of cannabis advocates and business owners decided a good way to help out during the crisis was with a free bag of weed.

The cars lined up Friday along Sheridan’s main street in front of businesses that are usually closed even in the best of times. Any Montcalm County resident who could prove they served in the military or were on Social Security disability got a quarter-ounce of marijuana flower, some edibles and a bit of hemp product that would likely retail at more than $150.

“Everybody’s wearing safety precautions, masks, gloves. We’re trying to stay our distance. We have nobody in the building. It’s all preregistered in the car, similar to take-out food,” said David Overholt, an iconic figure in Michigan’s marijuana advocacy movement who organized the event in front of his store, Mid-Michigan Compassion Club.

People were grateful, including Melissa Houston, who is on Social Security disability after she was hit by a drunken driver when she was a teen.

“Trust you me, this is going to help with my depression and anxiety, too, because it always has helped me,” Houston said after receiving her bad of free goodies.

Overholt may be seen as a gadfly by officials in Montcalm County, but the people lined up were fans — perhaps not surprisingly since he was giving them a free quarter bag.

“It’s a big deal for those who became ‘unemployed temporarily due to the virus,” said Debbie Wright, a Navy veteran with disabilities using medical marijuana to help move away from prescription medicines.

What was surprising was the lack of pushback from authorities.

“I wouldn’t want to be a politician arguing with a bunch of sick people and veterans right now who are getting free meds at voting time,” Overholt said.

While state police made their usual patrols up and down M-44, there was no county sheriff presence and a city council member who spoke to News 8 off-camera shrugged her shoulders, saying that until a law is broken, there is nothing they can do.

Overholt put some of his own product into the paper bags, as well as some from providers and growers he knows in the area.

“The generosity has come out in droves since we announced we were doing this,” Overholt said. “This is the right thing to do and I’m so proud of the caregivers that stepped up and did it.”

“I just think it’s a great idea. I think there are a lot of people struggling right now, we’re just trying to give back and help people through a tougher time,” said Danny Bailio, who donated some of the stuff given away from his Belding hemp farming operation the Hemp Train, which he owns with his wife Kristina Bailio.

Overholt said the giveaway will be a weekly event in Sheridan. He hopes other parts of the state will join in.

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