LANSING - An effort to legalize marijuana for medical use in Michigan cleared a key procedural hurdle this week.
A state elections board approved the form of petitions being circulated by the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care.
The group needs to collect at least 304,101 valid signatures of Michigan voters within six months to send its issue to state lawmakers.
If state lawmakers vote to accept the proposal, it becomes part of Michigan law. If the Legislature doesn't vote on the measure or rejects it, the initiative would appear on the November, 2008, ballot.
The group has been collecting signatures for less than two weeks and so far likely has fewer than 10,000 signatures.
Campaign organizers want to collect about 550,000 signatures to make sure they will have enough valid ones when it comes time to certify their petitions.
Michigan law prohibits marijuana use for any reason. But a dozen other states permit medicinal use by patients.
Voters in five Michigan cities - Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint, and Traverse City - have passed ballot initiatives allowing for medicinal marijuana use in the past few years.
The votes were mostly symbolic, however, since state and federal laws prohibit use of the drug.
The statewide Michigan initiative would allow patients to grow and use small amounts of marijuana for relief from pain associated with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases.
A doctor's approval or recommendation would be required to use the drug. Registry cards would be created so law enforcement personnel could tell who was a registered patient with the OK to use the drug.