Medical marijuana backers speak up

September 12, 2005

Michael P. McConnell , Daily Tribune (MI)

FERNDALE — Backers of a November referendum to legalize marijuana for medical use disagree with city Police Chief Michael Kitchen, who has said that even if the measure passes he would have to enforce state and federal laws prohibiting marijuana use.

"The Ferndale police chief arresting a patient would be to the detriment of the city and the patient," said Donal O'Leary III, a 19-year-old resident who successfully campaigned to get the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot. "I would love to see the chief reconsider his statement."

O'Leary, who is a University of Michigan student, made his comments at the City Council meeting Monday night. Kitchen said afterward his stand against the ballot issue is unchanged.

"I can't choose to ignore state and federal laws," he said.

O'Leary got the issue on the ballot with a petition drive financed by an undisclosed backer. His group is called the Ferndale Coalition for Compassionate Care.

A city ordinance allowing the use of medical marijuana was passed in Detroit last year.

Tim Beck, who organized that successful campaign, told city officials Monday that 60 percent of voters in Detroit approved the measure.

"The city said ... we don't care to participate in an immoral law or an immoral system," Beck said.

Responding to questions from Mayor Robert Porter, Beck said he knows of physicians who prescribe marijuana for patients.

When asked how the patients obtained the drug, Beck said: "The drug is procured the way it's always procured."

A Detroit woman who reportedly suffers from multiple sclerosis, Rochelle Lamkin, told the City Council that medical users of the drug do not use it to "just to get high."

"I don't think we should be looked at as criminals and treated as criminals," she said.

She further told Porter that a doctor had offered her a legal pharmaceutical drug with some of the active ingredients of marijuana, but that she could not afford the drug which she said costs about $3,500 for a month's supply.

Ten states outside of Michigan have laws that allow doctors to prescribe marijuana in the treatment a number of diseases, including AIDS and glaucoma.

Porter has said the problem with an ordinance allowing the medical use of marijuana is that the patient's use would still support drug dealers because there is no legal source for the drug.

Contact Michael P. McConnell at or at 248-591-2571.


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