Imagine you want to start a business. You go to apply for a government license and are told the only way to get approval is for donors of a high-ranking politician to give you written permission.

The “friends” of this powerful politician happen to charge you huge amounts of money and have a list of demands for how you must run your own business. If you do make it through all the hoops and get their permission, any time you deviate from their demands for how you run your business, or criticize or oppose their preferred politician, they could pull approval and shut down your business.

You would expect these mafia-style tactics in a corrupt regime like Venezuela, but Michigan’s governor is attempting to institute these outrageous rules by forcing newly legal marijuana businesses to receive the approval of her union boss friends in order to obtain or renew a government license to operate.

Michigan voters legalized marijuana at the ballot box in 2018. Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency was formed and instituted rules allowing the industry to operate.

Over $100 million has been invested in this new industry, and now that the regulatory agency is creating permanent rules, the unions and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have slipped in a brand-new requirement called “labor peace agreements.” The governor’s appointed agency director flat out acknowledges that a business license application and renewal will be rejected unless a union gives the business permission to operate.

One example of a so-called “labor peace agreement,” as written by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), requires a business to “hand over all employee home addresses, cellphone numbers and personal email information” to the union and “assemble employees in a room (without employer present)” when deciding if they want to become unionized.

The workforce then becomes unionized via the “card check” method. There is no secret ballot to ensure workers vote their conscience. If 50% of the workers sign a card given to them by union organizers — who remain in the room during the “card check" — the business is immediately unionized.

These government-mandated shakedown tactics were not in the initial rules but have recently been inserted into the draft rules that will become permanent early next year.

The concern is that once the precedent is set that a government license can only be obtained by paying Whitmer’s friends, then every business and individual that needs a license is at threat of losing their freedom to work unless they pay the regime.

It’s very clear what happened. The union bosses spent millions to elect the governor, so she is paying the unions back by giving them the authority to reject government licenses for businesses that refuse to pay them.

The governor knows her “pay to play” scheme is so self-serving and anti-American that it would never pass the Legislature, so she’s simply using her head bureaucrat to write it into the licensing requirements and secure the deal.

A mafia-style protection racket is “the practice in which businesses and/or individuals in an area periodically pay money in return for freedom from harassment.” In other words, when the money is paid, the syndicate will protect businesses. At least the mob lets businesses get started before they start demanding money, unlike the governor’s government-imposed shakedown.

Those who want to sell marijuana have two choices: Either operate legally and face a shakedown by union bosses, or risk selling illegally. It’s unfortunate, but it’s conceivable that some people will choose the latter.

The people of Michigan need to make their voices heard to shine a spotlight on Whitmer and her bureaucrats, so they will reverse this anti-freedom scheme that threatens every business and individual that needs a license to make a living.

Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, represents the 26th state Senate District. The senator also serves as president pro tempore of the Michigan Senate.

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