Traverse City, Ferndale approve medical marijuana use

November 09, 2005

John Flesher , Associated Press

TRAVERSE CITY - Laura Barber says she's convinced good will come from an approved city ordinance instructing police to go easy on those who use marijuana for medical purposes, although critics dismiss it as a worthless gesture.

"I believe in my heart that it will have an effect," said Barber, executive director of the Coalition for Compassionate Care, which led the petition drive to get the measure on the local ballot.

Her 32-year-old husband, Matthew Barber, was convicted of possession last year. Laura Barber says he uses marijuana to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Voters in this northern Michigan community endorsed the ordinance during Tuesday's election, with 1,594 in favor and 925 opposed. It doesn't make marijuana legal but declares possession, use or delivery of the drug by a medical patient the "lowest law enforcement priority of the city."

Meanwhile, a proposal to allow medical use of marijuana in Ferndale passed 1,894 to 1,222. Detroit and Ann Arbor adopted similar measures in 2004.

But state law prohibits possession and use of marijuana, raising doubts about the legality of the municipal ordinances.

The Michigan attorney general's office last year concluded the Ann Arbor ordinance was contrary to state law, spokeswoman Allison Pierce said.

Donal O'Leary III, a University of Michigan student and Ferndale resident who led the pro-marijuana campaign there, said he believes local officers pay attention to such ordinances.

"There have been zero medical marijuana-related arrests or prosecutions" in Detroit or Ann Arbor since their measures passed, O'Leary said.

A message seeking comment was left with Ferndale Police Chief Michael Kitchen. He has said his department would continue arresting anyone found with marijuana.

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