Medical use supporters gear up for fall fight
September 07, 2005
Vanessa McCray, Traverse City Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY - Laura Barber will spend the next few months campaigning for a fight she says picked her.
Barber said she thinks city voters will approve a city ordinance that doesn't legalize marijuana possession but makes its use by a medical patient the "lowest law enforcement priority" of the city.
City commissioners voted 4-2 Tuesday to place the issue on the Nov. 8 city ballot. Barber's petition for the ordinance had 623 certified signatures of city residents.
Barber said she and other supporters of the Coalition for Compassionate Care will campaign for the ordinance.
"I believe in my heart that voters will have compassion in their hearts for people and that they will vote this in," Barber said.
Barber said she didn't seek to become the local face of the medical marijuana movement - until her husband, Matthew Barber, was arrested for possession last year. She said marijuana is the only thing that alleviates Matthew's multiple sclerosis symptoms.
The commission had two options when it came to the petition for an ordinance, the city attorney said. They could enact it or send it to voters.
Commissioners Rick Csapo and Ralph Soffredine, both with prior careers in law enforcement, voted against putting the ordinance before voters.
"I just see tons of problems with this thing," said Csapo, a retired Grand Traverse County sheriff's deputy. "I think it will be struck down."
Soffredine, former city police chief, said the city isn't the place for Barber's battle and she needs to take the fight to the state level or to the public health sector.
The proposed ordinance is also "ambivalent," Soffredine said.
Commissioner Scott Hardy said supporters need to inform people exactly what implementation would mean.
Right now, he said, it's "crystal unclear." Assistant city attorney Karrie Zeits said if voters approve the measure, she will recommend the city ask the courts to define what the ordinance means and if it's legal.
Barber said letting voters decide the marijuana question is a "huge blessing."
"We will be out there actively campaigning, handing out booklets and leaflets," she said. "(We'll) get the community knowledge (about) what the real deal is about medical marijuana."
Ferndale residents will vote on a similar proposal in November. Detroit and Ann Arbor have passed medical marijuana ordinances.