Lawmakers hear debate over medical marijuana

November 28, 2006

Tim Martin, Associated Press, Kalamazoo Gazette (MI)

LANSING -- A proposal to allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons in Michigan received a rare legislative hearing Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. LaMar Lemmons III, of Detroit, would block prosecution of patients with ``debilitating medical conditions'' who grow or use marijuana for treatment purposes. Eleven states and several cities -- including Detroit and Ann Arbor -- have adopted similar measures in the past decade, usually through ballot proposals approved by voters.

The legislation discussed Tuesday in the House Government Operations Committee would protect people who use marijuana to treat cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or other conditions. The patient would need a signed certification from a doctor to allow the marijuana use.

 

The main benefits of the drug, patients say, are pain relief, anti-inflammation and relief from nausea.

Kalamazoo resident Martin Chilcutt, a U.S. Navy veteran who used medical marijuana while undergoing cancer chemotherapy, was scheduled to testify at the hearing, but his testimony was canceled when time ran short.

Over the past 15 years, Chilcutt has had cancer three times -- the result, he said, of exposure to atomic-bomb tests when he was in the military.

``Medical marijuana is excellent as a pain reliever,'' he said. ``When you're seriously ill like that, cancer is like a death sentence. You're terrified. It really helps tremendously to reduce the anxiety, tension and stress. It helps you get a good night's sleep, and sleep makes it much easier to function.''

He said he has become a patient advocate for the use of medical marijuana, which he has seen help people with AIDS, chronic migraines and multiple sclerosis.

Supporters of statewide legalization may have to go the ballot route. The bill discussed Tuesday is not likely to pass before the legislative session concludes at the end of the year.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy group, says a petition drive in Michigan is possible at some point.

Benjamin Jones, of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said he is against the bill. He said marijuana should have to go through the same federal testing procedures as other drugs before it could be approved for medical use.

Gazette staff writer Linda S. Mah contributed to this report. She can be reached at 388-8546 or lmah@kalamazoogazette.com.



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