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Medical Marijuana Could Be On Michigan Ballot


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Michigan voters may get a chance to vote next fall on whether to decriminalize the marijuana use for medical purposes as supporters of the idea submitted nearly a half-million petition signatures to state elections officials today.

The group, Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, said it gathered the signatures of 496,000 registered voters, far in excess of the 304,000 required, to put the issue before the Legislature and, if no action is taken, to state voters.

Dianne Byrum, a former state legislator from Ingham County now working with the marijuana coalition, said the use of medical marijuana enjoys broad support around the country and in Michigan. Twelve states currently allow citizens some access to medical marijuana, allowing seriously ill patients to grow and/or possess and use the drug. Voters in five cities in Michigan – Detroit, Flint, Ann Arbor, Ferndale and Traverse City – have approved similar local ordinances in recent years. But use and possession of marijuana for any purpose remains illegal under state and federal law.

Byrum said the Michigan initiative has been narrowly crafted to restrict marijuana use to those who have specific, serious illness certified by a physician. It has been endorsed in concept by resolution of the state Democratic Party, said Byrum, a former Democratic state senator and representative who now runs a political consulting firm.

But it is unlikely Democrats or Republicans in the Legislature will rush to embrace the measure. Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said he expected Senate leaders to wait to see whether the group collected enough valid petition signatures. But the fact the Legislature could have taken up medical marijuana legislation at any time – several measures have been introduced – but did not, suggests "there may not be much interest in it," Marsden said.

The proposal might be slightly more attractive to the Democratically-controlled state House, where medical marijuana legislation has been considered, very briefly, in the past. But Greg Bird, spokesman for Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, declined immediate comment Tuesday.

Typically, proposals on medical marijuana draw intense criticism from some federal antidrug officials who question its efficacy and suggest that legalization of any kind sends a mixed message to young people. Opponents also view medical marijuana as a Trojan horse for widespread legalization for pot and other recreational drugs.

Byrum said backers of the Michigan medical marijuana proposal have no interest in other legalization initiatives. The Michigan coalition is sponsored in part by the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project, a group advocating decriminalization of marijuana use.

Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2007 Detroit Free Press
Contact: letters@freepress.com
Website: Detroit Free Press - www.freep.com - Your local Detroit news source.
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