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Panel Certifies Medical Marijuana Initiative for November Vote


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Michiganders with chronic or debilitating disease could legally possess and use marijuana under a proposal on its way to state voters in November. A state elections panel Monday certified petitions with 377,975 signatures backing the plan, well over the 304,000 minimum needed to put the initiative before voters if the Legislature fails to act upon it within the next 40 days.

Representatives of both House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said Monday afternoon that legislative action was 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 which circulated the petitions, also said she has no expectation medical marijuana will be taken up by the Legislature.

The initiative would amend Michigan law to allow seriously ill patients to obtain a doctor's authorization for the cultivation of up to 12 marijuana plants and possession of 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 in the 1970s, said he would like to have the option of using marijuana as an alternative to the prescription drugs he takes.

"I think marijuana would help with the pain," said Allen, who also has arthritis. "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 now permit it under some circumstances.

The practice has been most controversial in California, where voters also 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 Michigan statute is silent on the question of where the marijuana comes from, and does not authorize marijuana 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, which provided nearly all of the $1.1 million used to organize the campaign in 2007 and collect the petition signatures.

Source: Lansing State Journal (MI)
Copyright: 2008 Lansing State Journal
Contact: Lansing State Journal
Website: Lansing State Journal
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