Group Defends Itself, Pot Prop

Group Defends Itself, Pot Prop
Posted by CN Staff on October 30, 2008 at 06:30:15 PT
By Charlie Cain, The Detroit News
Source: Detroit News 
Michigan -- The $1.5 million effort to legalize medical marijuana in Michigan -- which could affect an estimated 50,000 sick people while keeping pot sales and possession illegal for everyone else -- is bankrolled almost exclusively by the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington-based group that parachutes into states with campaigns to alter drug laws and has held fundraisers at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion.
If approved by voters Tuesday, Michigan would become the 13th state -- and the only one in the Midwest -- to allow marijuana use for the treatment of a host of health problems, such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, hepatitis C and Alzheimer's disease, if a doctor first recommended the drug could ease their pain and suffering. The proposal's opponents include representatives of the law enforcement and medical communities. They claim the effort plays on voters' well-intentioned desire to help sick people, but say it's really part of a broader agenda to decriminalize marijuana use for everyone. "I'm convinced they want to use Michigan as a launching pad to infiltrate the Midwest," said Court of Appeals Judge Bill Schuette, who is the point man for Citizens Protecting Michigan's Kids, the opposition group. He said the Marijuana Policy Project gets its money largely from a trio of wealthy and ultra-liberal businessmen who live outside of Michigan. "These individuals throw their money in a big pot and then the Marijuana Policy Project folks airlift these proposals into states like Michigan," Schuette said. He identified the businessmen as George Soros, a hedge fund investor from New York who spent $25 million trying to defeat President Bush four years ago; Peter Lewis, retired president of Progressive Insurance; and John Sperling who created the University of Phoenix in his hometown. Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Medical Policy Project, said the group gets its money from donors and its 25,000 dues-paying members. "Soros is a myth. We haven't gotten anything from him this decade, and Sperling hasn't given to us as far as I know," Mirken said, adding that his group has received substantial money from Lewis. Success from East To West  The project, founded in 1995, has played a big role in getting medical marijuana ballot proposals approved by state legislatures in Rhode Island (2006), Vermont (2004), Maryland (2003) and Hawaii (2002). It also funded the successful 2004 medical marijuana ballot initiative in Montana. Mirken said his group decided Michigan was fertile ground since five Michigan cities have approved symbolic ordinances to allow for legal medical marijuana: Detroit, Ferndale, Ann Arbor, Flint and Traverse City. Beyond medical marijuana, he said the group has an interest in decriminalizing marijuana use for adults. "We've never been shy about saying we believe marijuana should be treated like alcohol -- taxed and regulated with appropriate rules and licensing," Mirken said. The project -- its advisory board members include former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former Minnesota governor and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, television personality Bill Maher and actor Jack Black -- also backed losing ballot proposals to decriminalize marijuana use by adults in Nevada (2006) and Alaska (2004). The group, with 38 employees including lobbyists and attorneys and a budget last year of $5.5 million, intends to pursue legislation to ease restrictions on marijuana use this year and next in states such as Illinois, New York and Minnesota. Mich. Opposition Gears Up  Opponents of the Michigan ballot proposal, who had raised just $125,500 as of Oct. 20, launched their first TV ad on Wednesday, saying that Proposal 1 would lead to the explosion of storefront marijuana dispensaries that have opened in California. Ronald Brooks, with California's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, told Michigan reporters in a conference call this week that there are now 153 marijuana dispensaries open in neighborhoods in the San Francisco area. He said the dispensaries are involved in money laundering, sales to minors, and getting pot into the hands of people who suffer from no more than a sore throat. "There is not a single paragraph, sentence or word within Proposal 1 that prohibits pot shops from opening in Michigan, just like they did in California," said Schuette, who took part in the call. But Sandra Cotter, an attorney with the respected Michigan law firm Dykema Gossett, said most of the opponents' claims are without merit -- based on her review of its wording. "Proposal 1 was carefully drafted to provide limitations and regulations while allowing the use of marijuana by a very small segment of the general population," she wrote in the memo distributed by the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, a Ferndale-based group that is pushing the medical marijuana proposal here. Note: Opponents say medical marijuana backers 'airlift' ultra-liberal proposals from state to state.Source: Detroit News (MI)Author: Charlie Cain, The Detroit NewsPublished: Thursday, October 30, 2008 Copyright: 2008 The Detroit News Contact: letters Website: Related Articles & Web Site:Stop Arresting Patients 1: Medical Marijuana Helps 1 Man Despite Doctor's Verdict 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on October 30, 2008 at 17:25:45 PT:
The terminology doesn't go unnoticed, of course.
'Infiltrate the MidWest'. Cue the ominous martial background music, and the movie 'extras' tricked out to look like 'the bad guys'. Somebody's seen that movie Read Dawn too many times. BTW, the last I heard, the MidWest was part and parcel of the US of A, not some foreign country you invade. Jeez...These 'DrugWarriors are taking themselves and their military metaphors a little too seriously. Rather like overgrown boys playing soldier. Even their speech patterns belie a degree of arrested adolescence. And this is trusted with power. No wonder the country is so screwed...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by afterburner on October 30, 2008 at 07:04:22 PT
Judge Bill Schuette 'airlifts' CA outside agitator
Court of Appeals Judge Bill Schuette 'airlifts' Ronald Brooks, from Calif. HIDTA by conference call.Note: Backers say medical marijuana opponents 'airlift' ultra-conservative propaganda from state to state.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment