Detroiters will have a chance to vote on the legalization of marijuana
for medical purposes next August.

If the issue passes, authorities said users in Detroit would be exempt
from marijuana-possession laws if they have a medical need for the
drug.

Earlier this month, Detroit City Clerk Jackie Currie validated 7,779
of the signatures submitted by the Detroit Coalition for Compassionate
Care, a group of metro Detroiters that has been fighting to get
marijuana on the ballot for several years. The law requires 6,141
valid signatures.

In 2001, the group gathered more than enough valid signatures, but the
City of Detroit's law department challenged the petition, citing
technicalities, and kept the measure off the ballot.

"The law department has raised no objections this time," said
coalition founder and chairman Tim Beck of Detroit. "So the Detroit
Medical Marijuana Initiative question will finally appear on the
primary ballot next August."

Even if the proposal is adopted, it would affect only Detroit. It
would not prevent Wayne County sheriff's deputies, Michigan State
Police or federal agents from arresting users in Detroit.

"I think it's more symbolic for the proponents of medical-marijuana
use," said Michael Karwoski, an attorney for the city. "The impact on
the city is probably negligible because they are not changing state
law."

National advocates said medicinal marijuana use will be a good thing
for Detroit.

"It keeps police from wasting time and valuable resources," said Kevin
Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, based in Washington,
D.C..

Zeese estimated that it can take police up to four hours to arrest,
book and release people during a routine marijuana arrest.

"And for the patient, it would make them feel secure that they won't
be harassed by law enforcement," Zeese said.

The medicinal value of marijuana has been recognized by numerous
national organizations and medical institutions. Medical use of the
drug has been approved in California, Nevada, Oregon, Maine,
Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Arizona and Hawaii. And last fall, the
Canadian Parliament legalized medical use of marijuana.

But that is not enough to win over critics like Detroit Councilwoman
Alberta Tinsley-Talabi, who said that drug use has had such a
devastating effect on Detroit that the argument for legal use of the
drug for medicinal purposes makes no sense.

Proponents note that the drug has been used to treat multiple
sclerosis, chronic pain and glaucoma. Dan Solano, a retired Detroit
police officer, said marijuana has helped him recover from being
crushed between two cars while on duty in 1991.

Solano said he used prescription drugs for about three years, and in
1994, a friend recommended using marijuana to help with severe
headaches, sleeplessness and recurring nausea.

He said marijuana helped him sleep and made his headaches bearable. He
also said that overall, he could function better.

Prescription drugs "had serious side effects, and they would leave me
in a zombie-like state," Solano said. "The side effects of marijuana
were benign in comparison. . . . Marijuana helped. It made a
difference."


Pubdate: Fri, 21 Nov 2003
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Webpage: http://www.freep.com/news/locway/toke21_20031121.htm
Copyright: 2003 Detroit Free Press
Contact: letters@freepress.com
Website: http://www.freep.com/