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Pot for Medical Use on Ballot

PFlynn

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The Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, which collected nearly a half-million petition signatures last year, easily surpassed the required 304,101 valid signatures to qualify, the Board of State Canvassers decided on a 3-0 vote.

The initiative now goes to the Legislature, which has 40 days to consider it. If lawmakers approve the measure, which is unlikely, Michigan would become the 13th state to allow medical marijuana use. If lawmakers reject the proposal or fail to act within that time frame, it automatically goes on the November ballot.

If enacted, the new statute would allow patients to use, possess and grow their own marijuana for medical purposes with their doctors' approval.

Backers say seriously ill people should be permitted to use marijuana, without penalty, to alleviate pain and nausea.

"We should be allowing doctors and patients to have all options to deal with pain and suffering without fear of arrest or jail," said Dianne Byrum, spokeswoman for the coalition. Patients likely to benefit include those suffering from AIDS and Alzheimer's disease and cancer patients under chemotherapy.

Byrum said some national physicians' groups support medical marijuana. But the Michigan State Medical Society is opposed, except in research.

"We need scientific proof of efficacy. There's no direct evidence that it works," said David Fox, spokesman for the physicians' group.

Sen. Tom George, R-Kalamazoo, a physician and former hospice director, said he would vote against the proposal. He said THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is already available in pill form, called Marinol.

"It is used as an anti-nausea medicine, an appetite stimulant and pain control but has a fairly narrow role and generally there are better medications," George said.

Campaign finance records show the medical marijuana group raised about $1.07 million and spent nearly all of it on the petition drive. That's more than any other ballot committee.

Other initiatives still in the petition circulation stage include plans that would: legalize embryonic stem cell research; replace the state income and business taxes with a 9.75 percent sales tax and require universal health care.

Note: Supporters gather signatures to ensure the initiative will go before public in November.



Source: Detroit News (MI)
Copyright: 2008 The Detroit News
Contact: letters@detnews.com
Website: Detroit News Online | Tuesday, March 4, 2008
 
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