Medical marijuana, stem cell research on Nov. 4 ballot

Two ballot proposals regarding marijuana use and stem cell research will be presented for Michigan voters on Nov. 4.

Proposal 08-1 would allow patients suffering from qualifying medical conditions to cultivate and use restricted amounts of marijuana. Cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis and other approved conditions specified by the Department of Community Health are included beneficiaries of the proposal.

In a ballot approved by the Board of State Canvassers, the proposed law would allow individuals with a permit to grow the marijuana in an enclosed, locked facility. It would also require the Department of Community Health to make an identification card system for those who qualify to use or grow the marijuana.

"A number of states have passed similar proposals out west," said Chris Owens, assistant professor of political science.

Bill Ballenger, former Griffin Endowed Chair, predicts the law will pass.

In March, when Ballenger found out the proposal would be on the ballot, he took a poll. He found that 67 percent of those polled supported the proposal.

Medical marijuana has been on ballots in 10 states in the past 15 years, and was passed all but one time, Ballenger said.

"It's not a huge drug party," he said. "This is for very carefully defined diseases and conditions."

Existing Michigan law defines marijuana as a controlled substance, with possession subject to federal punishment.

Under Proposal 08-2, embryonic stem cell research use would be permitted for fertility and research uses, reforming current laws that restrict such research. While this proposal expands embryo usage, there will be a 14-day time frame from first cell division in which one must abide.

According to the Michigan Citizens For Stem Cell Research and Cures' Web site, current Michigan law bans any research that destroys embryos for non-therapeutic purposes. Research is not to jeopardize the life or health of the embryo, fetus or neonate if there is therapeutic benefit for the embryo, the site said.

Supporters say the proposal would protect the rights of Michigan patients to have any stem cell treatments for their diseases and injuries that are allowed under federal law and available to other Americans, according to the Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures' Web site.

Ballenger said Proposal 2 will be more controversial, and a closer race.

Groups like Michigan Catholic Conference and Right to Life in Michigan will spend lots of money petitioning this proposal. They think stem cell research is destroying human life, Ballenger said.

Supporters believe stem cell research will be an economic development tool, creating more jobs in the scientific field.

In general, Democrats will probably support the proposals while Republicans will likely oppose them, Owens said.

"It's in the middle of a presidential election, so (the proposals) are kind of secondary," he said.

As the election gets closer, more people will become aware of them.

Owens said voters should be aware they also must individually go through the issues because straight ballot votes are not applied to the proposals.


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