State should allow use of medical marijuana

December 11, 2006

EDITORIAL, Ann Arbor News (MI)

There's a well-known drug available for pain relief - one that some patients already use, despite its illegal status.

But medical marijuana remains tainted, and another year has passed without that status changing in Michigan.

A bill co-sponsored by outgoing state Rep. Chris Kolb, D-Ann Arbor, would have blocked prosecution of patients who use marijuana to treat "debilitating medical conditions.'' They'd need a doctor's signed certification to do so, and that seems reasonable.

At a House Government Operations Committee hearing last month, patients gave poignant testimony about the effectiveness of this treatment, which can be used for cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or other conditions. In addition to pain relief, the drug acts as an anti-inflammatory and combats nausea.

"I'm a living subject. I'm the proof,'' testified Irvin Rosenfeld, who participates in a federal program allowing him to use marijuana legally. "I'm a productive member of society because I have the right medicine.''

That federal program he's in, by the way, was closed to new patients more than a decade ago. And despite testimony from Rosenfeld and others, the bill hasn't moved out of committee and isn't a priority as state lawmakers wrap up their two-year legislative session this week.

Supporters of medical marijuana reform say they might re-introduce the bill next year. A national advocacy group is considering a petition drive in Michigan to put the issue on the ballot and let voters decide.

Eleven other states already allow use of medical marijuana - Michigan wouldn't be making a radical move here. And Ann Arbor, perhaps not surprisingly, is among several cities who've supported such a measure.

In 2004, 74 percent of local voters amended the Ann Arbor city charter to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes. However, that doesn't protect a person from prosecution under state or federal law.

Chronic pain is increasingly recognized as a major medical issue, and we need access to as many ways as possible to manage it effectively.

Whether by ballot measure or legislation, Michigan should enable all patients who legitimately need medical marijuana to use it without fear of prosecution.

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