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Published: Sunday, 8/1/2004

Medical pot issue faces test in Detroit


Supporters of a controversial initiative on the ballot Tuesday in Detroit that would legalize marijuana use for medical purposes are confident the measure will pass.

The proposal would create an exception in the city code for patients who have a doctor's permission to use the drug.

Tim Beck, chairman of the Detroit Coalition for Compassionate Care, said he knows passage of "Proposal M" wouldn't affect state and federal laws that prohibit marijuana use and allow prosecution of those possessing or using the drug, but he thinks it's an important first step.

"We feel it's reprehensible that authorities and the government would keep medicine from people that need it," Mr. Beck said.

"I happened to be a medical marijuana user. I have a doctor's recommendation and I know that means nothing here in Detroit."

He said studies have shown that marijuana helps people who have AIDS, glaucoma, and certain types of anxiety disorders.

Voters in Ann Arbor face a similar ballot proposal in November, and if it is approved in both cities Mr. Beck said medical marijuana supporters will ask Michigan lawmakers to take action statewide.

In Ann Arbor, the final ballot language has not been approved.

"I'm very confident we are going to win," he said.

Bill Sanford, president and chief executive officer of the Compass Corporation for Recovery Services in Toledo, isn't convinced the measure is worthy of passage.

"I'm personally against it," he said. "It just opens the door and would lead to more abuse, misuse, and easier access to the drug."

University of Toledo senior Chris Burnside, who founded the school's National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws chapter, hopes to bring a similar initiative to the ballot in Toledo.

"Of course I'm for it," Mr. Burnside said. "When it comes to patients' rights, I think that they need more options than just what Pfizer [pharmaceuticals] has to offer them ."

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6088.

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