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Med Pot Proposal On Its Way To Michigan's Ballot

PFlynn

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A state elections panel Monday certified petitions with 377,975 signatures backing the plan, well more than the 304,000 minimum needed to put the initiative before voters if the Legislature fails to act on it within the next 40 days.

Spokespeople for House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said Monday afternoon that legislative action is unlikely.

"We will be letting the voters decide this one," said Greg Bird, an aide to Dillon and House Democrats.

Dianne Byrum, a former lawmaker and spokeswoman for the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, the group that circulated the petitions, said she has no expectation the Legislature will take up the medical marijuana issue.

The initiative would amend Michigan law to allow seriously ill patients to obtain a doctor's authorization to cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.

Lynn Allen, a 51-year-old Williamston resident who contracted HIV and hepatitis C from contaminated blood when he was being treated for hemophilia, said he would like to have the option of using marijuana as an alternative to the prescription drugs he takes, among them OxyContin.

"I think marijuana would help with the pain," said Allen, who has arthritis and frequently uses a wheelchair. "Right now, I'm forced to take an opiate. Marijuana is a much more benign kind of drug."

The movement to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes has spread widely in the last decade. A dozen states permit it under some circumstances.

The practice has been most controversial in California, where voters authorized the sale of small amounts of marijuana at licensed co-ops. Those operations have been targeted by U.S. law enforcement agencies under federal law. Byrum said the proposed Michigan statute is silent on the question of where the marijuana would come from, and does not authorize sales.

"We're just trying to protect the patient from prosecution," she said.

The Michigan Coalition is backed by the national organization Marijuana Policy Project. It provided nearly all of the $1.1 million used to organize the campaign and collect petition signatures. Byrum said she expects the fall campaign to rely more heavily on Michigan resources, but no budget has been set.

Traditionally, opposition to medical marijuana has come from law enforcement, especially national drug enforcement agencies. So far, no organized opposition to the Michigan campaign for medical marijuana has surfaced.



Source: Dettroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2008 Detroit Free Press
Contact: letters@freepress.com
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