Michigan tackles medical, recreational marijuana

Associated Press, WOOD TV8 (MI)

Charles Snyder III says his rare disorder, nail patella syndrome, sometimes leaves him in so much pain he'd nearly be bedridden without pain medication -- such as marijuana.

Snyder supports a bill discussed Tuesday in the state House that would make it legal for patients with "debilitating medical conditions" who grow or use marijuana for treatment purposes. Eleven states and several cities -- including Detroit and Ann Arbor -- have adopted similar measures in the past decade, usually through ballot proposals approved by voters.

Supporters of statewide legalization may have to go the same route. The bill discussed Tuesday is not likely to pass before the legislative session concludes at the end of the year.

The House Government Operations Committee heard testimony about the bill Tuesday but didn't vote on it.

Supporters of allowing medical use of marijuana in Michigan say a petition drive is possible at some point. But Tuesday's hearing also could set the stage for another effort with lawmakers next year.

"That's all I want -- to be functional enough to be an effective citizen," said Snyder, 29, a Flint resident who suffers from the genetic disorder often characterized by abnormalities of the arms and legs, kidney disease and glaucoma. "Allowing medical use would help."

Snyder helped organize an effort that placed a medical marijuana proposal on the Flint ballot for February.

The legislation discussed Tuesday would protect people who use marijuana to treat cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or other conditions. The patient would need a signed certification from a doctor to allow the marijuana use.

The main benefits, patients say, are pain relief, anti-inflammation and relief from nausea.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic Rep. LaMar Lemmons III of Detroit.

Benjamin Jones of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence said he is against the bill. He said marijuana should have to go through the same federal testing procedures as other drugs before it is approved for medical use.

Some Republican lawmakers worried that the legislation would open the door to other bills demanding legalizing use of marijuana and others drugs for other purposes.

Even if the legislation were to pass, it could have a murky future. Federal law doesn't recognize state statutes that allow medical marijuana use, sparking legal fights in California, for example. And cities that pass proposals to allow medical marijuana use are largely symbolic if state law doesn't permit it.

But the proposals are steps toward broader legislation allowing medical use of marijuana, supporters say.

Another effort to legalize marijuana in Michigan is already under way. A measure proposed for the 2008 statewide ballot would allow state residents to legally use marijuana on private property for recreational or medical purposes.

The Board of State Canvassers on Monday approved the form of a legislative petition proposed by Medical and Recreational Peace, an Eaton Rapids-based group backing the proposal. But similar efforts failed in 2006, 2002 and 2000 when supporters were unable to collect enough signatures to make the ballot.

The measure would make it legal for those 18 and older to use marijuana on private property. Those found using the drug in public would be guilty of a civil infraction punishable by a 50-dollar fine.

The measure also would allow people to grow marijuana at their residences.

Supporters of the measure must gather about 304-thousand valid petition signatures to get on the 2008 ballot.