Montana and Michigan voters still support medical marijuana

Both states feature legal and legislative battles over whether laws allowing the practice should be modified or revoked.

By Alicia Gallegos — Posted March 8, 2011

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Despite efforts in Montana and Michigan to repeal or alter medical marijuana laws, recent polls show voters in both states still support the practice.

A February survey of 2,212 Montana voters by Public Policy Polling found that 63% still back marijuana for medical purposes. Most voters, however, also support stricter regulations under the law. The survey was funded by Patients & Families United, a Montana support group for patients who use medical marijuana.

The Montana House of Representatives voted Feb. 10 to repeal the state's 2004 voter-enacted law. House Speaker Mike Milburn, a Republican, said many patients approved for medical marijuana are not terminally ill, and that the law has created a growing illegal drug trade. At this article's deadline, the House measure had not gone to the Senate.

The Montana Medical Assn. had no comment on the repeal of the medical marijuana law in its state, a representative said. In general, the association's position on medical marijuana is that the drug should be used only in the safest, legally-approved way and "be subject to the same regulatory scrutiny as any other psychoactive drug with the potential for abuse." More research regarding the safety, dosage and effectiveness of medical marijuana is needed, the MMA said in a statement.

In Michigan, a January poll of 600 voters by the Marketing Research Group found that 61% of residents would vote again for the medical marijuana law enacted in 2008. The poll was funded by the Michigan Assn. of Compassion Centers, which advocates citizens' rights under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.

The Michigan State Medical Society said in a statement that it supports the use of cannabinoids for medical purposes by routes other than smoking. The society also urges further research and testing on the drug.

In the last two years, lawsuits related to the Michigan law have been filed.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit in June 2010 against a Michigan Wal-Mart for firing an employee who tested positive for marijuana. The man was approved for medical marijuana, but a judge on Feb. 11 sided with Wal-Mart. The case is on appeal.

Meanwhile, federal agents are fighting the state for the medical marijuana records of seven people following a Lansing, Mich.-area investigation. The state said a privacy provision in the Michigan law prevents release of the record. Several cases questioning the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries also are pending.

Medical marijuana advocates say the polls show voters want to work with legislators to improve medical marijuana laws, not have the laws revoked.

"We really hope the polls show legislators they can't just overturn something people still very much support," said Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbies for medical marijuana legislation. "They need to look at what people want."

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