Ann Arbor a possible model for medical marijuana

October 20, 2004

, Detroit Free Press

Ann Arbor voters will decide, via a proposed charter amendment, whether to stop prosecuting marijuana users if they have a medical recommendation for it.

As with the proposal that passed in Detroit in August, this ballot measure resulted from a petition drive. It affects only city rules; marijuana charges can still be brought under state and federal law. City officials seem uncertain how they'll proceed if the proposal passes.

As a charter amendment, the Ann Arbor proposal has advantages over Detroit's detailed code change, which this newspaper opposed because of its sloppy construction. The proposed Ann Arbor language gives the city leeway to make reasoned judgments on who is qualified to recommend marijuana and what form that 'recommendation' takes. The charter language also protects sale of marijuana, giving it away or growing it in such cases.

If there is a way to do this well in Michigan, the confluence of medical and legal professionals, along with other interested folks in Ann Arbor, should be able to accomplish it within this framework -- and perhaps provide a model for other cities, or eventual statewide implementation. At least nine states already allow medical use of marijuana, and Montana will vote on it Nov. 2.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Nov. 29 in a California case, to determine whether federal authority overrides state law on medical marijuana. The court's decision will affect how states proceed more than any local action can.

But in the meantime, Ann Arbor voters should say YES to Proposal C, to allow medical marijuana use. Marijuana seems to give invaluable relief for people suffering from some types of pain and nausea, filling a gap that modern medicine still can't always address. They shouldn't have to fear being branded as criminals.

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