If Proposal 1 passes on Nov. 4, Michigan could join the ranks of California and the other 11 states where patients suffering from specific terminal and serious illnesses can legally use marijuana to treat their symptoms.
The proposed ballot initiative, put forth by the Ferndale-based Coalition for Compassionate Care, would allow registered patients with a “debilitating medical condition” to legally use marijuana.
Those conditions would include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis and other conditions approved by the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Patients would be allowed to possess two and a half ounces of usable marijuana and 12 marijuana plants.
Each patient would first have to obtain their doctor’s approval, register with the Department of Community Health and be issued an identification card to prove their eligibility for the program.
Those opposed to the proposal, including Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, and Republican Attorney General Mike Cox argue that it fails to deliver a clear way for patients to obtain marijuana and would also increase crime rates. Supporters dispute those points, saying it will give the state’s illest citizens protection from the threat of arrest, prosecution and jail if they use medical marijuana.
Dianne Byrum, a spokeswoman for the Coalition for Compassionate Care, said that there is a “growing body of medical evidence” that indicates that there is “medical value in marijuana for treatment of some diseases and illnesses.”
Recent polls have shown support for the proposal. A Detroit Free Press-Local 4 poll, conducted last month, found Michigan voters favored the measure by a 66- to 25-percent margin, with 9 percent undecided. A Detroit News-WXYZ Action News poll, also taken last month, found 59 percent of voters support the proposal, with 37 percent opposed to it and 4 percent undecided.
After the proposal went unchallenged for more than a year, a coalition of medical, law-enforcement and anti-drug organizations called Citizens Protecting Michigan Kids formed last week. It’s headed by Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Bill Schuette.
“Proposal 1 is so loosely crafted and so loosely written, the unintended consequences of passage of Proposal 1 are so grave, that the only vote for the citizens of Michigan in November is no,”Schuette said
yesterday in an interview.
The group also includes several medical and law enforcement organizations such as the Michigan State Medical Society, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Michigan Sheriff’s Association.
Byrum said that medical marijuana laws in other states, have not interfered with the ability of police officers to do their jobs.
“In other states (medical marijuana laws) have been implemented without fanfare, the sky has not fallen in and they have not been problematic in terms of law enforcement being able to carry out and enforce the drug laws of those particular states,” she said.
In Michigan, five cities, including Ann Arbor, have passed medical marijuana laws. The others are Detroit, Ferndale, Flint and Traverse City.
One of the major points of contention is just how patients would obtain marijuana in Michigan. The law allows patients to grow it themselves, but patients who don’t want to grow it, would have to find a “caregiver” — someone over 21 without a felony conviction to grow the marijuana for them.
The proposal contains no provisions that allow patients to purchase marijuana.
“How they would obtain their marijuana is silent in this law because the reality is they are obtaining it now,” Byrum said.
She said behind-the-counter pharmaceutical options would not be viable “because of federal, political regulatory issues.”
California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana, has seen a proliferation of “pot shops,” where patients can purchase marijuana. But lately these co-ops have seen violence and crime. Last week, a security guard at a Los Angeles pot clinic was shot dead in an attempted robbery.
“There’s nothing in this statute that would restrict, nothing that would prohibit and nothing that would prevent these pot shops and pot clubs and smoking co-ops that have erupted in California from coming to Michigan,” Schuette said.
Byrum called Michigan’s law “significantly” different from California’s law.
“You cannot compare the two because California does not have the safeguards that the Michigan law puts in place,” she said.
While public opinion may currently be in favor of it, some of Michigan’s most prominent politicians have voiced their opposition to the proposal.
Most prominent among them has been Granholm, who has repeatedly said she’s against of the proposed law because, she argues, it leaves the door open to the legalization of marijuana.
Matt Frendewey, a spokesman for Cox, said the attorney general opposes Proposal 1 because there are “other forms of medication on the market right now” that are “available and legal in Michigan.”
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, an outspoken opponent of the proposal, called the proposed law “a nose under the tent to legalize a drug.” Bouchard said he’s against the proposal because “the reality is that the medicinal components of marijuana are now available and prescribable by a physician.” He said the proposal could also increase crime rates.
LSA junior Chris Chiles, executive director of the University chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said that argument was contradictory to the reason he supports the drug policy reform.
“One of the main reasons I am for ending the drug war is to reduce the crime that is associated with the black market,” said Chiles, who supports the proposal. “If anything, it could decrease because there is less involvement in the black market.”
Although SSDP has not yet taken a side on the issue, Chiles said he expects the group to endorse the proposal at its next meeting.
Both the editorial boards of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, which are often at odds, have endorsed the proposal.