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Information About Proposal 1: Legalizing Medical Marijuana Use

Pain Relief and Appetite Enhancement


Updated October 23, 2008

Quick Summary and Context:

One of two proposals on the ballot in November, Proposal 1 seeks to legalize medical marijuana use. The proposal has a lot of support and is expected to pass, except that a new group popped up on October 2nd opposing it: Citizens Protecting Michigan Kids. Even so, several of Michigan’s largest cities, along with 12 other states, have already passed initiatives that decriminalize the drug’s medicinal use. If the proposal passes, Michigan will be the first Midwestern state to legalize medical marijuana use.


The most notable opponent is Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, who has argued that marijuana does not, in fact, provide the medicinal benefit it claims, that alternative drugs exist to obtain the same medicinal benefit, and that decriminalization will cause enforcement headaches and weaken drug laws.

Citizens Protecting Michigan Kids came to the table on October 2nd with a host of additional arguments. The strongest arguments concern quality control of a street drug in terms of dosage/purity and the cost associated with keeping track of the medically-sanctioned users.

Slippery Slope:

The proposal may very well be the first in a plan to legalize marijuana for everyone, but its language is narrow, protecting only seriously-ill patients and their doctors from prosecution. The statute also provides practical safeguards, including an identification-card system and limitations on the number of patients to which a doctor can prescribe the drug: five.

Benefit/Harm Analysis:

The real question behind the proposal is whether the potential benefit to a patient out weights the proposal’s potential for harm/abuse. Marijuana benefits seriously-ill and terminally-ill patients in that it provides pain relief and appetite enhancement. This type of benefit is recognized in legalizing the use of other addictive drugs through prescription, such as the pain-reliever Vicodin. In fact, Vicodin is legal with prescription in spite of the cost and headaches associated with enforcement. Meanwhile, Heroin continues to be illegal under any circumstances because its potential abuse out weights its benefit.

The biggest problem with legalizing a street drug is the issue of drug purity. The proposal addresses this issue by allowing qualifying patients to cultivate a certain amount of marijuana for their own use. Of course, law enforcement officers will have to bone up on what a 60-day supply of marijuana looks like.

Of Note:

  • The statute only protects medicinal use of marijuana from Michigan criminal laws, not Federal prosecution.
  • Legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use opens up the state’s ability to regulate it in terms of purity and strength. It can also then be taxed.
  • Opponents argue about the danger of pot shops, like those that cropped up in California. According to the Detroit Free Press, however, the Michigan proposal does not authorize “cooperative growing,” the language in California's medical marijuana proposal that gave birth to pot shops.


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