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Traverse City, Ferndale voters favor medical marijuana November 9, 2005 - Detroit Free Press
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- Laura Barber says she's convinced good will come from a newly approved city ordinance instructing police to go easy on those who use marijuana for medical purposes, although critics dismiss it as a worthless gesture.
"I believe in my heart that it will have an effect," said Barber, executive director of the Coalition for Compassionate Care, which led the petition drive to get the measure on the local ballot.
Her 32-year-old husband, Matthew Barber, was convicted of possession last year. Laura Barber says he uses marijuana to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Voters in this northern Michigan community endorsed the ordinance during Tuesday's election, with 1,594 in favor and 925 opposed -- a 63 percent approval rate. It doesn't make marijuana legal but declares possession, use or delivery of the drug by a medical patient the "lowest law enforcement priority of the city."
Meanwhile, a proposal to allow medical use of marijuana in the suburban Detroit city of Ferndale passed 1,894 to 1,222. Detroit and Ann Arbor adopted similar measures in 2004.
But state law prohibits possession and use of marijuana, raising doubts about the legality of the municipal ordinances.
The Michigan attorney general's office last year concluded the Ann Arbor ordinance was contrary to state law, spokeswoman Allison Pierce said.
Ralph Soffredine, a city commissioner and former police chief in Traverse City, said its new ordinance "doesn't mean anything." But he said city officials likely would ask the courts to clarify the matter.
Police don't enforce the law on the basis of priority lists, said Capt. Pat Hinds of the Traverse City force. If the ordinance is intended to get officers to look the other way when a crime is committed, "that's troublesome," he said.
"I don't know if this has any effect, don't know if it's legal," Hinds said. "Everybody's trying to figure out what it means and where we're at. This is pretty much uncharted territory."
Laura Barber said her husband, a former corrections worker, turned to marijuana to relieve severe muscle pain from multiple sclerosis after prescription drugs failed.
"My husband and I are not criminals," she said. "This is a man who uses medication to get rid of his symptoms from a terrible disease."
Soffredine said he wouldn't object to medical use of marijuana if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and reputable groups such as the American Medical Association supported it.
"None of them have recognized this as a medicine," he said. "That's where the battle belongs, in the health field. It doesn't belong in the law enforcement field."
Donal O'Leary III, a University of Michigan student and Ferndale resident who led the pro-marijuana campaign there, said he believes local officers pay attention to such ordinances.
"There have been zero medical marijuana-related arrests or prosecutions" in Detroit or Ann Arbor since their measures passed, O'Leary said.
A message seeking comment was left Wednesday with Ferndale Police Chief Michael Kitchen. He has said previously his department would continue arresting anyone found with marijuana.
"in times of widespread chaos and confusion, it has been the duty of more advanced human beings - artists, scientists, clowns, and philosophers - to create order. In such times as ours however, when there is too much order, too much m management, too much programming and control, it becomes the duty of superior men and women and women to fling their favorite monkey wrenches into the machinery. To relieve the repression of the human spirit, they must sow doubt and disruption"
"People do it every day, they talk to themselves ... they see themselves as they'd like to be, they don't have the courage you have, to just run with it."