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Michigan Medical Marijuana Initiative Well-Positioned for November

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #530)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

With an initiative known as the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act headed for the November ballot with strong popular support, Michigan is poised to provide a major breakthrough for the medical marijuana movement. If the initiative passes, Michigan would be the first state in the Midwest to approve it and, with 10 million people, it would be the second most populous state to approve it, behind California.

Michigan Capitol
Sponsored by the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care (MCCC), the campaign has already gathered the necessary signatures and had them approved by the state election board. Under Michigan law, the initiative is now before the legislature, which is half-way through a 40-day window it has in which to act. If, as is expected, the legislature does not act, the initiative goes to the voters in November.

According to MCCC, the initiative would:

  • Allow terminally and seriously ill patients who find relief from marijuana to use it with their doctors' approval.

  • Protect these seriously ill patients from arrest and prosecution for the simple act of taking their doctor-recommended medicine.
  • Permit qualifying patients or their caregivers to cultivate their own marijuana for their medical use, with limits on the amount they could possess.
  • Create registry identification cards, so that law enforcement officials could easily tell who was a registered patient, and establish penalties for false statements and fraudulent ID cards.
  • Allow patients and their caregivers who are arrested to discuss their medical use in court.
  • Continuing certain restrictions on the medical use of marijuana, including prohibitions on public use of marijuana and driving under the influence of marijuana.

"The clock is ticking," said Diane Byrum of Lansing, who heads the MCCC. "We don't anticipate the legislature will take any action. When that doesn't happen, then we are automatically on the ballot."

While Byrum declined to discuss specific campaign tactics for the coming months, she did provide some hints of the arguments proponents would be making. "We will be focusing on the patients this initiative will protect from the fear of arrest or jail for using medical marijuana," she said.

The campaign will also make efforts to reassure voters, she said. "The law is narrow in scope, it deals only with medical marijuana, there is a mandatory state registration system," Byrum went down the list. "The sky won't fall."

While Michigan voters may want some reassurance, medical marijuana is not exactly a brand new issue in the state. Voters in five towns and cities -- Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint, and Traverse City -- have already approved medical marijuana, and it has been before the legislature for several years.

Rochelle Lampkin, a 49-year-old Detroit resident who uses medical marijuana to alleviate optic neuritis caused by Multiple Sclerosis, doesn't want to wait on the legislature. Although Lampkin is protected by Detroit's medical marijuana law, she said that was not sufficient. "I first spoke out about using medical marijuana when we were trying to get the ordinance passed, but I think this needs to go statewide. There are people suffering all over the state," Lampkin said. "People have a preconceived notion about marijuana, and I was one of them, but if you have enough pain, you'll try anything."

It helps her, she said. "The neuritis causes the nerves in the back of my eye to swell up and they hurt so bad," she said. "The marijuana works. It helps to relax the nerves so the pain subsides. I had to be convinced to try it, but I did, and it works. I don't like smoking it, so I learned how to make a tea out of it. That's what I use."

This isn't about potheads, Lampkin said. "I want people to understand everybody is not out here trying to get high," she said. "I don't get high, I don't smoke, I don't even drink. I was the square," she laughed. "When I did try it, it was because other people in my MS group said they used it and I might want to try it. I fought it, but I eventually did try it and it helps."

As the local pro-medical marijuana votes demonstrated, there is broad support among the Michigan electorate. A recent poll provided further evidence of that support, with 67% of voters saying they supported medical marijuana and 62% voicing approval for this particular initiative.

"This is the baby boomers coming of age," Tom Shields of the Marketing Resource Group, which conducted the Inside Michigan Politics survey, said in a statement on its release last month.

Voters between 34 and 54 showed 75% support for medical marijuana, and 63% of retirees did. Somewhat surprisingly, younger voters (18 to 34) were the least supportive, backing the measure 61% to 36%.

Still, the initiative is in good initial shape with voters, said Shields. "This is where you want to start at for a ballot proposal," Shields said. "You want to start over 60% because when the details come out, you lose support... This is a potential winner."

But there is a long way to go, said Byrum, who will be spending the next few months building and strengthening the campaign. "We're building a grassroots organization. We're asking people to make contributions. This is going to take a lot of work."

So far, at least, there is little sign of any organized opposition, although organizers expect law enforcement to eventually mount objections. One objection already being heard is that medical marijuana would still be illegal under federal law.

As for that argument, Byrum said that would make little difference to Michigan medical marijuana users. "About 99% of drug enforcement cases are done by state law enforcement," she pointed out. "Passage of this initiative will effectively protect 99% of our patients. We can see that by looking at states that already have these laws. They do provide protection."

Each state that joins the roster of medical marijuana states only increases the pressure on the federal government to change its policies, Byrum argued. "We believe that as more states pass their own laws it will apply further pressure to get beyond the political debate that dominates Washington and get to the scientific and medical evidence as a basis for policymaking."

Medical marijuana efforts are ongoing in a number of state legislatures this year. But the legislative process is excruciatingly slow and cumbersome, and it is unclear whether any will make it into law. Initiative campaigns, while expensive, have the benefit of bypassing the politicos and letting the voters choose directly. With high levels of popular support a few months out, it looks as if Michigan may beat the other states out of the gate.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

As a RN I understand what drugs do, thier side effects and potential health risks. So many of the legal drugs used at this time have many potential ill side effects. Marijuana, however, is the safest therapeutic drug, hands down. While it's possible for someone to have allergic reactions to THC(most may be from contamination, not the THC), it has less risk of such reactions then OTC drugs such as Tylenol or asperin. In fact, it's impossible to overdose on THC, a claim that Tylenol or asperin can not make. The biggest risk marijuana poses is its risk of contamination, due to it being an uncontrolled substance. Unless you grow it yourself, you have no idea what its been exposed to. This bill is a great step towards having a controlled substance being consumed by those in need.
While this Bill is good, it only applies to those who are seriously ill. It may not include those who seek relief from arthritis, neuropathy, chronic pain or even psycological conditions, such as ADHD or bipolar disease. I would like doctors to have the right to prescribe Sativex, a sublinqual route for THC. This would offer a dosing that has the same fast acting benifits of marijuana, but without the smoke. Marinol, a legal pill, is hard to dose due its slow acting nature and difficult to consume, especially for those with chemo induced nausea. I feel strongly that all of the above conditions should qualify for medicinal marijuana.
The fact the Federal Government still holds marijuana in the same class as herion and cocaine either reflects a total ignorance of the drug or other unknown political agenda's. Please say "YES" to this Bill come November.
Sam Peck RN

Fri, 04/04/2008 - 2:20pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

i HATE taking pills for bipolar disease! It messes with my body, my mind , and makes me vomit. i smoke marijana and finds it helps me and i've never hade problems with side affects from marijuana as i did with pills perscribed from a licensed psychiotrist. Will relief from arthritis, neuropathy, chronic pain or even psycological conditions, such as ADHD or bipolar disease ever be qualified for medical marijuana?

Fri, 11/07/2008 - 5:31pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I have bipolar disorder and so far none of the medications have worked for me.The only thing that has worked is marijuana. I am currently still seeing a psychiatrist and trying different types of medication. i have tried zanax, paxil, zoloft, wellbutrin, lamictal, seroquel, tegretol, depakote,effexor, and I'm sure there are a bunch more that i cant remember.All these medications gave me really bad side effects. My psychiatrist keeps either upping my doses or trying different meds. Pretty soon there wont be any more medications for me to try. Marijuana even helps me when i have really bad manic episodes. My question is, is there any doctors that will prescribe marijuana to bi polar patients in Michigan? Or should I just not even bother trying?

Wed, 02/04/2009 - 2:32pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Michigan should follow the 11 other states that have decriminalized for small amounts of marijuana. It is also fair to say; the State of Michigan should have a state-wide uniform law that follows Ann Arbor policies, for small amounts of marijuana. Convictions in the State of Michigan are unjust, and unfair otherwise.

Fri, 04/04/2008 - 4:19pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

My aunt has Parkinson's disease and shakes so bad that she can only have about 1/4 cup of coffee at a time, any more than that and she spills it all over the place.
One day I brought her to my house and told her she should try smoking a little pot to calm her nerves a little, at the time she was taking prescribed drugs that kept her feeling real sick all the time, and did not seem to help at all. I rolled one up for her and showed her how to smoke it, she hit it a few times and said that's not so bad, prior to that, all she knew was the bulls**t propaganda the government has provided. a few Minuit's later I was driving her home and looked over at her hands and she was not shaking at all, I asked her how she was feeling and she said she could not remember the last time she felt that relaxed. does this sound like a criminal act to you? our government thinks so, is it not the governments job to do as the majority wishes and not what the government wishes? legalize the plant! drugs are manufactured, plants grow naturally. everybody needs to fight to restore our constitutional rights, and tell Tell the corrupt government to stop violating them.
Did our forefathers fight and die so we could have such a controlling government? NO, THEY FOUGHT FOR OUR "FREEDOM"
Chris, Michigan.

Fri, 04/04/2008 - 8:22pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Sometimes it is hard to express your disgust toward Goverment sponsered intrusions.
In this country your don't have a free will or the right to choose what you ingest. Period. Every week some new Prescription drug gets pulled off the market because of it's lethal side effects. Alcohol and tobacco has Millions of casualties also. Yet the Gov. thru legalization has herded it's Nation of citizens toward Alcohol,Tobacco & the Pharmacy's pills of Russian Roulette. The U.S. has created a monopoly of recreational consumables. The riots in Mighigan place a microscope on Alcohol abuse and the Dangers society faces when large crowds of "Drunk & Uncontrollable" people do what they have been given the right to do. No large crowd of Pot smokers would ever get out of control and create havoc as these Government sponsered users. Quoted in an online article "Pot smokers would not be throwing weed bags, bongs, & rolling papers".
Legal or not no one argues that unruly behaviour is unacceptable and should be punished. It is when our laws allow for the use of one substance while criminalizing the use of another clearly more benign substance that reality is distorted and mistrust sets in.
We can't trust our leaders anymore when it comes to the Billions spent on a misguided Drug war that has done little more than disintegrate our civil liberties.

Tue, 04/08/2008 - 8:05pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Just as I can pick some mint and brew some mint tea to ease a stomach ache, why can I not pick some cannabis and ease muscular agony??? Why would the government create such a witch hunt out of a green natural plant? Perhaps those who invest so much of their billions in the government, know that this green plant could challenge their pharmaceutical and paper industries just to start... A dark distorted image has been created of a simple green plant. Let's stop the lies and harvest the benefits once and for all.

Tue, 04/22/2008 - 5:12pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I suffer from depression and bipolar disease and marijuana is the only drug that helps me with my struggle. Where does one find a list of MI. doctors who prescribe marijuana? This is very important to me. Please help.

Sat, 09/05/2009 - 10:14am Permalink

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