Ann Arbor medical marijuana initiative to appear on Nov. ballot

July 18, 2004

Casey Ehrlich, Michigan Daily

For University alum Charles Ream, the fight to place the issue of marijuana legalization on the ballot has been a political and personal crusade. The Scio Township trustee led the petition signatures drive that was recently approved by the city clerk’s office, allowing the issue to appear on the ballot this November.

Ann Arbor voters will decide whether or not medical marijuana should be legalized, a controversial question that was placed on the ballot as a result of 7,000 petition signatures collected through the initiative of local supporters over the course of one year.

Ream worked to achieve the support of at least 5 percent of the city’s population by May, the amount necessary to place a proposal on the ballot, greatly surpassing the minimum requirement.

The city usually uses a sampling method when checking the validity of signatures for a petition — meaning they check only a random selection of signatures. But in the case of the medical marijuana initiative, the city validated the authenticity of each signature individually by checking voter registration cards, Ream said.

“The most important thing is for the proposal to pass for medical uses, but we also want to make a resounding statement that American people are fed up with federal government trying to control their lives,” Ream said. He added that he is sure the proposal will pass in Ann Arbor this November.

“It is outrageous for healthy people to tell sick people that they cannot have the medicine that is making them feel better. These people have found a way to cope with a disease and have found a way to live,” Ream added.

It still remains unclear whether or not medical marijuana has proven medical benefits, although according to Medical Marijuana Detroit, it has been used to treat multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches, glaucoma, cancer and AIDS/HIV.

But the lack of substantial scientific evidence and fear of marijuana as a gateway drug, leads many national medical organizations, such as the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society and National Eye Institute to officially reject the idea of legalizing medical marijuana.

RC senior Rachel Frey said she agrees with legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“In general, it’s better to use alternative forms of medicine, things that are not necessarily developed in a lab, but rather are natural and come from the earth, like cannabis. (Sick people) have found something that makes them feel better,” she said.

She added, “ The government doesn’t have the right to tell people what to put into their bodies, especially if it is for positive use, like medication.”

But recent RC graduate Benjamin Turbo said he is hesitant about supporting the legalization of marijuana.

“I think drug use is a personal issue and I wouldn’t want to tell anyone how to live their life, but … I am unsure about how it would be distributed and I think it could be an easy way for young children to get pot,” Turbo said.

Ann Arbor currently has a law that makes the possession of marijuana punishable by a $25 fine. Although the sale or use of marijuana is illegal in the United States under federal law, there are now eight states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — that permit the legal use of medical marijuana.

“The more liberal, western states ... have already legalized it and Ann Arbor represents a more liberal frame of mind within the Midwest. There is nothing wrong with it in my moral opinion,” said Katie Deutsch, a senior in the School of Art and Design.

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