States Eye Medical Marijuana Across Midwest

States Eye Medical Marijuana Across Midwest
Posted by CN Staff on July 20, 2008 at 14:43:21 PT
By McClatchy Newspapers 
Source: Tulsa World
Chicago, Illinois -- The move to legalize medical marijuana is advancing in the Midwest, with Michigan poised to be the first state between the Rockies and New England to sanction the use of the illegal drug by terminally or seriously ill people. Michigan voters will decide in November whether to authorize marijuana use, if a doctor determines suffering could be eased by the drug from such diseases as cancer, Crohn's disease, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's or hepatitis C.
While years of public opinion polling show opposition to legalizing marijuana, polls and the overwhelming majority of state referendum votes show strong support for medical use of marijuana. At the same time, some physician groups have dropped their resistance to medical marijuana. The combined effect of public opinion, medical research showing benefits of marijuana in the treatment of some diseases and shifts in attitudes in the medical community has fueled the movement that has seen 12 states adopt medical marijuana laws in the past dozen years. "We need to get beyond the political debate and into medical terms. That's where the public is," said Dianne Byrum, a former state legislator in Michigan and spokeswoman for the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, the Detroit-area group that turned in 475,000 signatures to earn a spot on the fall ballot. "This is really about patients and their suffering. ... For them, medical use of marijuana should give them comfort and not the threat of arrest or jail," Byrum said. There is evidence in the Midwest suggesting political interest. Five Michigan cities already have medical marijuana ordinances. The Minnesota state Senate recently approved a medical marijuana measure, though it died on the House floor. A similar measure died in the Illinois state Senate in the past session. Other measures were debated in Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri. Less than four months before the November election, there is no organized opposition to Michigan's binding referendum. The Michigan State Medical Society, the state's arm of the American Medical Association, recently dropped its opposition to medical marijuana and said it will be neutral in the fall campaign. "We're keeping an open mind that marijuana in limited amounts can help some," said Dr. Michael Sandler, a diagnostic radiologist and president of the Michigan State Medical Society. But resistance is expected to develop, given the political volatility of the marijuana issue and the experience California has had since voters there endorsed use of medical marijuana in 1996. The California law says that patients need a prescription to acquire the drug, but it is otherwise vague. That legal opening led to the creation of so-called marijuana clubs and the large-scale growing of the drug in fields and homes. Hundreds of marijuana dispensaries are scattered around the state, and dozens of cities have cracked down on cultivation. California endorsed "political chaos," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, which advocates "the repeal of marijuana prohibition." "No other state has and no other state will replicate what California did," St. Pierre said. "Every ensuing state ?that has approved laws also? narrowly define the types of diseases, require the amount of cannabis they can possess is relatively small and the number of plants they can possess is relatively small. And there will be absolutely no retail dispensarylike model that has emerged in California." With that in mind, the Michigan proposal would allow a patient to legally possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana or grow up to 12 plants in enclosed and locked facilities. Although other states have followed similar guidelines regarding quantities of pot and eligible medical conditions, efforts are under way in some states to change existing laws. A proposal in Oregon, which approved its law in 1998, would allow the drug to be sold in liquor stores. In neighboring Washington, state health officials have proposed limiting patients to 1  pounds of pot, an amount that has been criticized by some patient advocates as too little and by law-enforcement groups as too much. The political sensitivity of marijuana was evident two years ago when voters in South Dakota narrowly rejected a medical marijuana plan 52 percent to 48 percent. Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has endorsed medical marijuana, but only if science and the medical community concur and if it were carefully controlled. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, is opposed to medical marijuana. There is an awkward relationship between states and the federal government on the issue. States that have embraced medical marijuana are technically in violation of federal law after the Supreme Court's 2005 ruling that said such laws do not provide immunity from federal prosecution. Some marijuana clinics in California have been raided by federal drug agents. The Michigan vote will be watched as a potential barometer for a region that has yet to embrace medical marijuana. "This is just another step in a fairly steady progression that the law is starting to catch up with public opinion," said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that advocates decriminalizing marijuana. "The dirty little secret to this is that a lot of folks in professional politics think this is a lot more controversial than it really is," Mirken added. Source: Tulsa World (OK)Published: July 20, 2008Copyright: 2008 World Publishing Co.Contact:  letters tulsaworld.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #2 posted by ezrydn on July 21, 2008 at 04:13:24 PT
How many does it take?
Just considering, how many states have to incorporate some form or Medical Mariajuana or compassionate act to get the Prohibs to uderstand that the people are tired of their drunken, thieving War on Some Drugs? 25, 36, how many. Well, the ranks are growing and there's not a thing Unkle Scam can do about it. I'm waiting for a National Refferendum on the idea. A binding referrendum!
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Comment #1 posted by ekim on July 20, 2008 at 17:31:38 PT
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 Enjoy Dean Becker and recurring guest Terry Nelson on the drug policy/criminal justice issue of the week. Available online at, and at Sep 18 08 University of Michigan Greg Francisco Ann Arbor Michigan USA 
 Pendleton Room, Michigan Union 530 S. State Street
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