City OKs marijuana proposal

November 08, 2005

Christine Finger, Traverse City Record-Eagle (MI)

TRAVERSE CITY - Laura Barber's voice quivered with emotion after she heard Traverse City voters supported a measure to make medical marijuana use a low law enforcement priority.
      "I'm just absolutely overwhelmed," said Barber, whose Coalition for Compassionate Care spearheaded the citizen petition drive to put the issue on Tuesday's ballot.
      Voters approved the new city ordinance by a margin of 1,594 to 925, with 63 percent casting ballots in favor. The measure doesn't legalize marijuana possession but calls for the possession, delivery or use of marijuana by a medical patient to be the "lowest law enforcement priority of the city."
      Barber said sharing stories like her husband's evoked support from voters. Matthew Barber was arrested last year for possession of marijuana, which he uses to relieve multiple sclerosis symptoms.
      "When it hit that close to home, it made people take a look at their neighbors," she said. "Many people agreed with what we're doing because we're doing it for the right reasons."
      City commissioner Ralph Soffredine, former city police chief and a vocal critic of the measure, called the ordinance "ambivalent" and predicted the city will seek legal clarification of its impact.
      "I don't think it means anything," he said, pointing to existing state laws regarding marijuana. "We'll take it to court."
      Barber said she and others from the Coalition for Compassionate Care were out in force Tuesday campaigning in support of the ballot proposal.
      Paul Golden saw one of the group's campaign vehicles outside Eastern Elementary School, home to one of the city's polling places, when he picked his child up from school Tuesday afternoon. He's not a city voter but said the sight seemed a paradox to him and other parents.
      "This is a drug-free zone," Golden said. "They're sending kids mixed signals."
      Medical marijuana ordinances have been passed in Ann Arbor and Detroit, and Ferndale voters cast ballots on a similar proposal Tuesday.
      Barber called Traverse City's ordinance a major step forward.
      "This gives us a better standing to keep pushing farther," she said.
     

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