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With Proposal 1's passage, medical marijuana legalized

BY EMILY BARTON
Daily News Editor
Published November 4, 2008

Michigan became the thirteenth state to legally allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes yesterday after Proposal 1 passed with 63 percent of the vote in the 91 percent of precincts reported by early this morning.

The ballot initiative allows patients with severe medical conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and hepatitis C to legally use marijuana to treat pain and other symptoms. Patients would be able to own 12 marijuana plants and 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana once they’ve been granted permission by a doctor, registered with the Department of Community Health and been issued a program identification card.

The initiative was proposed by the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, a Ferndale-based organization.

"We're very excited because this is a solid victory for the patients and their families who desire to use medical marijuana when other treatments aren't working for them," said Diane Byrum, spokeswoman for the coalition.

Opponents of the initiative, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Attorney General Mike Cox, said the ballot language doesn't clearly stipulate how patients would obtain marijuana and voiced concern that a change in the law would cause an increase in crime and violence.

The opposing campaign was led by Citizens Protecting Michigan's Kids, a coalition of anti-drug organizations.

The passing of a similar proposal in California led to the creation of thousands of “pot shops,” quasi-legal stores selling marijuana to people with prescriptions. Proponents of Proposal 1 have insisted that Michigan’s law will guard against those problems. The ballot language provides penalties for anyone who illegally sells marijuana but doesn't explain how patients should obtain it.

"The ballot initiative is silent on how you get the first seed, because the reality is that patients are getting that today and using it," Byrum said.

LSA junior Chris Chiles, chair of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said he thinks Proposal 1 is a step in the right direction.

"I think it's great that patients will be able to use medicine their doctor recommends without fearing arrest or jail," he said. "I think it's fantastic."