Michigan voters likely will decide whether to legalize medical marijuana in November

December 21, 2007

, Lansing State Journal (MI)

Lynn Allen is in a great deal of pain. And he thinks marijuana would ease it.

The 51-year-old Williamston man was born with hemophilia and was infected with HIV and hepatitis C more than 20 years ago.

His greatest pain comes from arthritis related to his hemophilia. He must use a wheelchair to get around. He takes narcotics that help with pain, but they have side effects, including constipation and memory problems. Unless it’s legal, he won’t use marijuana.

“I had children in the home, and I didn’t want to set a bad example for them,” Allen said. “They’ve since gone off to college, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to break the law.”

Michigan voters will probably decide next November whether to allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana based on the recommendation of a physician.

Supporters have turned in nearly half a million petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office — they need 304,000 valid signatures to get the issue on the ballot.

But opponents question the medicinal value of marijuana and the sincerity of the effort. Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth is among them.

“There’s plenty of pain medication out there,” Wriggelsworth said. “I don’t think anybody’s concern is about ill people. It’s just a way for people who have a predisposition to use drugs to try to get them legalized.”

Twelve states allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. In Michigan, five cities — Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint and Traverse City — have ordinances to do so, although use and possession are illegal under both state and federal law.

Under the Michigan proposal, seriously ill patients could legally use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. The measure specifically lists treatment for such diseases as HIV, cancer and Alzheimer’s as well as for less specific “severe and chronic pain.”

Patients would register with the state and have an ID card to help police know they have the right to use marijuana.

Those who are registered would have the right to grow up to 12 marijuana plants. They could not be prosecuted for buying marijuana, although it would still be a crime for someone to sell it.

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