In addition to the medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot in Oregon and Montana, voters in an ABC of college towns -- Ann Arbor, Michigan; Berkeley, California; and Columbia, Missouri -- will have the opportunity to approve of local initiatives on Election Day. A similar measure cruised to success in Detroit in August, while efforts to get on the ballot in Minneapolis were thwarted by a recalcitrant city council.
In Ann Arbor, where simple pot possession was made a ticketable offense in 1968, the Ann Arbor Medical Marijuana Act (http://www.aammi.org) would establish an affirmative defense for medical marijuana patients and caregivers. Fines and all other costs would be waived for persons presenting such a defense. The measure also mandates "no incarceration, probation, nor any other punitive or rehabilitative measure" for qualified patients.
Under the initiative, medical marijuana patients would not join a registry, but could offer a doctors' recommendation as proof of medical use in the event they are ticketed. Such a defense could be offered any time until the fine is levied.
The Ann Arbor Medical Marijuana Act effort is being spearheaded by Washtenaw Coalition for Compassionate Care and Scio Township Trustee Charles Ream, 57, a former kindergarten teacher who began using the herb medicinally as a college student. "It was only after a friend gave me cannabis joints to smoke that I managed to take control of my life again," he told the university newspaper the Michigan Daily. The initiative, Ream said, is a chance for Ann Arbor to "send a big message that we want to help patients here, and that it is foolishness that marijuana is not available to sick people."
Although the initiative is a local affair, it has drawn the opposition of Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), who sent a letter to the city council making clear that she does not approve of medical marijuana. In her letter, Granholm warned that it would still be illegal to use, possess, or sell marijuana under state and federal law.
Such interference just raised Reams' hackles. In a written response to Granholm, Reams bluntly noted that "Ann Arbor voters don't like it when you tell them that their vote will be ignored."
In Berkeley, the Patients Access to Medical Cannabis Act (http://www.manlikemalcolm.net/pamca/) would replace the city's current 10-plant medical marijuana limit with an amount to be determined by each patient's needs, as set by the patient and his or her doctor. The act also calls on the city to take up medical marijuana distribution itself in the event that federal raids close the four private medical marijuana dispensaries currently serving the city.
In addition, the act would officially recognize caregiver/grower collectives as necessary to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients who are unable to grown their own. "Qualified patients may join together with or without their primary caregivers to form medical cannabis collectives for the purpose of acquiring or cultivating and manufacturing medical cannabis solely for the personal medical use of the members who are qualified patients," the initiative language reads.
And in Columbia, home of the University of Missouri, medical marijuana is one of two marijuana-related issues on the November ballot. (The other would make simple possession a municipal -- not state -- offense punishable only by a fine). Sponsored by the Columbia Alliance for Patients and Education (CAPE) with the help of Missouri NORML, the Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative (Proposition 1) would amend the city code so that "adults who obtain and use marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia for medical purposes pursuant to the recommendation of a physician shall not be subject to any arrest, prosecution, punishment, or sanction."
While no polling has been done, "it's looking pretty good," said Dan Viets, an attorney active with Missouri NORML and a national NORML board member. "We are pleased to have gotten an endorsement from the League of Women Voters, and the local graduate student organization has also endorsed the measures," he told DRCNet. "Thanks to the Marijuana Policy Project, we will be able to do a media campaign in the last 10 days with substantial newspaper and radio advertising and a couple of direct mailings."
While this is the first time around for a medical marijuana initiative in Columbia, it will be the second shot at reducing the penalties for marijuana possession, which is on the ballot as Proposition 2. Last time around, it was defeated by 60% to 40%.
Viets reported no organized opposition, although he did say the police chief would speak against it if anyone asked him.