Michigan -- For a majority of residents in the State of Michigan, legalizing the private use of marijuana is still something they are not willing to accept.
Using the plant for medicinal purposes, however, has precedent set by 11 states in the union ranging from California's open-ended law that provides use for, "any illness for which marijuana provides relief," to Vermont's law only allowing those suffering from HIV or AIDS, cancer or Multiple Sclerosis to use.
According to Tim Beck, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), polls indicate that residents are becoming more supportive of medicinal use of marijuana every year.
"The demographic is changing. As baby boomers reach their prime voting age, percentages in favor of more relaxed laws concerning marijuana grow about two percent a year," said Beck.
Flat out legalizing the use of marijuana, however, is still not in favor of the majority according to Beck. While several of the people involved in the attempt to get legalized personal use on the ballot in 2000 and 2002 now are part of NORML, the organization does not support the attempt to get the matter on the ballot for 2008.
Legislation to authorize those with debilitating conditions to be prescribed marijuana, HB 5470, made it to a House committee where it died a month ago.
Beck said that NORML is now seriously considering an effort to get the right to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, a proposal that would look very similar to the late HB 5470, on the 2008 ballot.
According to Beck, the wording in the ballot proposal would run the middle of the road compared to California and Vermont laws.
Though legalization for personal use is a goal of NORML, Beck said it is a priority to make it available to those who need it first.
"We need to protect the weakest and most vulnerable first. Those people using marijuana to decrease pain or to increase appetite do not belong in jail," Beck said.
Raphael Lematrie, spokesperson for the Office of National Drug Control policy said the push for medical marijuana is far from an effort to help the sick.
"Marijuana is not modern medicine. No doctor is going to prescribe smoking a crude weed. It has not proven to be safe," said Lematrie.
Marinol, produced by Solvay Pharmaceuticals, is a pill consisting of a synthetic THC: the relieving chemical found in marijuana. According to Lematrie, the pill is safe and prescribed for nausea, vomiting, and appetite loss.
"Legalizing this drug for medicinal use is just a sideshow," Lematrie said. "These so called grassroots movements' are well-funded organizations backed by a lot of money."
Lematrie said that there is a reason efforts to legalize marijuana in Nevada, Colorado and to allow medicinal use in South Carolina all failed in a vote last November.
"No city is going to benefit from increasing drug use," Lematrie said.
Out of 11 states to legally allow marijuana to be used in a medicinal way, eight were a result of a favorable ballot vote. Only three were accomplished through the legislature.
Source: Michigan Live (MI)
Author: Drew Storey
Copyright: 2007 Advance Newspapers