Federal official urges state to keep pot use illegal

November 27, 2006

Dawson Bell, Detroit Free Press

A top federal anti-drug official, testifying about legislation to approve the use of marijuana in Michigan for medical purposes, told lawmakers Tuesday the move would be bad both for patients and society. Scott Burns, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said a thorough scientific review of the subject by U.S. drug agencies has determined that “smoked marijuana is not a safe or effective medicine.”

Burns urged the House Government Operations Committee to reject legislation sponsored by Rep. Lamar Lemmons III, D-Detroit, to authorize patients with debilitating physical ailments to possess and use small amounts of marijuana.

Burns said that illicit drug use, including marijuana, has declined in recent years. But approving the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, as has been done in 11 states, would undermine that progress, he said.

Proponents of the legislation vigorously disputed Burns’ claims, however.
Don Murphy, a former Republican legislator from Maryland and national advocate for medical marijuana, said recreational use of marijuana has declined more rapidly in states where medical marijuana is legal than in states with a blanket prohibition.

Murphy also said smoked marijuana can provide relief for some patients that is not available from any legally prescribed medications.

Committee Chairman Rep. Leon Drolet, R-Clinton Township, a co-sponsor of the bill, had announced before the hearing Tuesday that he did not expect it to win approval in the closing days of the 2005-06 legislative session, and did not order a committee vote Tuesday.

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