After collecting almost 7,000 signatures in support of
decriminalizing marijuana for medical use, members of the Washtenaw
Coalition for Compassionate Care marched from the Arbor Brewing
Company to the city clerk’s office last Friday to turn in the
petition.

Ryan Nowak
Members of the Washtenaw Coalition for Compassionate Care walked to Ann Arbor City Hall last Thursday to deliver a petition containing more than 7,000 signatures in support of the legal use of medicinal marijuana. (FOREST CASEY/Daily)

With the help of the University’s chapter of the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the coalition has
collected almost twice the 4,170 valid signatures legally required
by the city.

Now, they may finally see the medicinal marijuana initiative on
the ballot in November if the city clerk’s office approves
the petition.

The petition asks voters to support amendments to the Ann Arbor
charter that would prohibit the city from fining residents for
possessing marijuana when it is recommended by a physician and used
for medical treatment. The petition also asks that fines for
marijuana use be capped at $100, currently the minimum amount for
possession of the drug.

Charles Ream, chairman of the Washtenaw Coalition for
Compassionate Care, said he has spent the last year collecting
petitions from Ann Arbor residents.

“Ann Arbor is a progressive town, and I know people want
this to work,” said Ream, citing the recent passing of the
medical marijuana initiative in Burlington, Vt. as an example for
Ann Arbor to follow.

But Ream added that getting the initiative on the ballot would
be an uphill battle.

He claimed the fight for medical marijuana reform was dealt a
blow three years ago when a city clerk gave the Washtenaw County
Libertarians the wrong deadline to turn in their petitions.

On a larger scale, the initiative faces opposition from those
who fear the drug may become too accessible to minors and those
using it for non-medicinal purposes.

The Bush administration also opposes the decriminalization of
marijuana for medical use.

Rackham student Evan Samuel said he opposes the initiative
because it may cause dependency on the drug.

“People have other prescriptions available to them that do
the same things. They use marijuana for things like stomachaches
because they’ve been using it for years and it has become a
crutch for them,” Samuel said.

Despite former setbacks and opposition, supporters such as Tim
Beck — a member of the Detroit Coalition for Compassionate
Care — attended the march.

“I know Ann Arbor, and I think this is going to pass
overwhelmingly. This is merely a culture war,” said Beck.

Beck also helped put the medical marijuana initiative on the
ballot in Detroit — an issue the city will vote on this
August.

Ann Arbor resident Madeleine Borthwick came out to listen to
Ream, Beck and others speak before the petition was turned in.
Borthwick, who awaits gallbladder surgery and suffers from severe
pain, sleeplessness and nausea, takes marijuana medicinally and
said she prefers it to other medicines.

“Between marijuana and acid reducer, I have to admit the
marijuana just works better,” said Borthwick, who is eager
for the initiative to pass in Ann Arbor.

“We would be able to smoke (marijuana) in our apartments
without worrying about the cops or neighbors finding out. We would
have the right to do what we want to do in the privacy of our own
home,” she added.

Borthwick said she would continue to use marijuana medicinally,
risking fines and court dates.

“I’ll stop smoking marijuana when they pull the
sheet up over my head,” she said.

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