Fight Looms Over Detroit Medical Marijuana Measure 3/5/04

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Detroit voters will go to the polls in August to decide whether to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in Michigan's largest city, and supporters and opponents alike are gathering their forces for what looks to be a hotly contested political battle. The Detroit Coalition for Compassionate Care (http://www.mmdetroit.org), sponsor of the proposal, seeks to amend the city code sections dealing with controlled substances and drug paraphernalia to carve out an exclusion for medical marijuana users.

"The provisions of this division [of the city code] shall not apply to any individual possessing or using marijuana under the direction, prescription, supervision, or guidance of a physician or other licensed medical professional," says the amendment. Similar language would amend the city code's paraphernalia section to allow medical marijuana users to possess their medical marijuana delivery systems (pipes, bongs, rolling papers).

The Detroit Coalition has already garnered endorsements for the measure from some of the city's biggest political figures, including US Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D), mother of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, US Rep. John Conyers (D), and Detroit City Councilwomen Maryanne Mahaffey and JoAnn Watson. The coalition has also raised more than $35,000 (and counting) for its war chest, including funds from the Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org) said coalition head Tim Beck.

It will need every cent to fend off a challenge from the drug warriors, Beck said. "We are in a good position at this point, but that could change," he told DRCNet. "Detroit is demographically similar to Washington, DC, where voters passed a medical marijuana initiative with 69% of the vote, but the political dynamics are different now. In the days of Clinton there was no substantive opposition, but now, with drug czar John Walters, it's radically different. We have two local groups, the Partnership for a Drug-Free Detroit (PDFD) and the Empowerment Zone Coalition, Inc., that are receiving federal funds and are determined to fight this to the bitter end."

PDFD did not return DRCNet calls requesting comment, but one of its spokesmen, Andre Johnson, told the Detroit Free Press last week the partnership would actively oppose the measure by campaigning on talk radio shows, television, town hall meetings, and other means. Medical marijuana "is dangerous," Johnson said, adding that studies show that communities with medical marijuana laws have higher teen drug use rats.

PDFD is already mobilizing. Thanks to some undercover work, the Detroit Coalition has obtained a copy of a talking points memorandum prepared by PDFD and handed out to its activists. Under the heading "Reasons that the Medical Marijuana Initiative is BAD FOR DETROIT," the memo warns that the measure is "the latest attempt by drug legalizers to deceive people and exploit the suffering of sick people." It then goes on to lay out the reasons medical marijuana is not good for Detroit (and DRCNet reprints them verbatim so reformers can see what they are up against):

"1. IT IS DANGEROUS. According to the National Cancer Institute, inhaling marijuana smoke for any purpose is a health hazard, because it contains over 400 potential carcinogens. In fact, smoking marijuana delivers up to five times the amount of tars and carbon monoxide as tobacco cigarettes into the body, causing severe lung damage, which is not helpful to someone suffering from cancer or AIDS."

"2. IT HURTS AIDS PATIENTS. Studies by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reveal that HIV-positive marijuana smokers progress to full blown AIDS twice as fast as non smokers, and have an increased incidence of bacterial pneumonia."

"3. IT IS BASED ON POLITICS, NOT FACTS. Medical decisions should be made by medical experts, not voters. You wouldn't ask your neighbor to perform heart surgery, so it makes no sense to have our neighbors decide whether a substance such as marijuana has any medical benefit."

"4. IT IS DECEPTIVE. Marijuana is an intoxicant, therefore it is not surprising that sincere people will report relief of their symptoms when they smoke it. Heroin also makes people feel better, but no one would suggest using heroin to treat a sick person. There are effective means of pain relief which are not dangerous to the patient."

"5. IT CAN BE DONE SAFER WITH SCIENCE. Marinol, a synthetic form of the active ingredient in marijuana smoke, has been approved by the FDA as an anti-nausea agent for chemotherapy patients, as well as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients suffering weight loss. Unlike smoked marijuana, Marinol is a stable, well defined, safe substance. Scientists are currently working on other, safe chemical derivatives of marijuana. This scientific approach has worked with other substances. For example, aspirin was originally found in willow bark; scientists synthesize aspirin in laboratories instead of having patients chew willow bark or smoke a piece of a tree to cure a headache. Likewise, raw opium is dangerous, but medical science safely uses its derivatives in morphine, Demerol and Oxycontin."

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Issue #327, 3/5/04 Editorial: What's the Real Reason? | The 2005 Federal Anti-Drug Budget: More of the Same, and Some Hidden Costs | The 2004 Federal Drug Strategy: Drug Czar Makes It Official -- It's War on Pain Patients, Doctors | Fight Looms Over Detroit Medical Marijuana Measure | UN Drug Report Criticizes Safe Injection Sites | Screenings! "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" to Air Around the Country March 29th to April 12th -- Host One in Your Home or Community or School! | DRCNet StoptheDrugWar.org Merchandise Special Extended | Newsbrief: Players in Haiti Revolt Linked to Drug Traffic | Newsbrief: With Vermont Medical Marijuana Bill Pending, Burlington Voters Send a Message | Newsbrief: Iowa Guardsmen Home from Iraq Face Drug Discipline | Newsbrief: Thailand to Launch New Drug War This Month, Shrugs off US Human Rights Criticism | Newsbrief: Doctors, Scientists Urge Media to End "Crack Baby" Myth | Newsbrief: Canadian New Democratic Party Calls for Regulation of Marijuana | Newsbrief: Jamaica Ganja Decrim Moves Toward Parliament Vote | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar
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