Rejecting arguments that it will increase crime and recreational use of the drug, 63 per cent of voters in the American state of Michigan showed on Tuesday that they were in favour of letting people who were ill grow their own pot: they sactioned Proposal 1, the marijuana measure, which allows medical marijuana for use by patients with debilitating illnesses.

Michigan joins 12 other states in the USA who have passed legislation approving the use of medical marijuana.

About 2.5 million voters voted for Proposal 1 while only about 1.5 million voted against, according to figures reported by the Detroit Free Press on 5th November.

Proposal 1 goes into effect later this month, after which state law will allow patients suffering from cancer, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and other illnesses to grow, possess and use marijuana.

When this happens, it will mean that 25 per cent of Americans will be living in a state where marijuana for medical use is legal. Patients will be allowed to grow up to 12 marijuana plants and possess 2.5 ounces at any one time.

The war for and against the legislation was fought in Michigan by two campaigns, one led by the Washington DC based Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) which is pushing for nationwide law reform on marijuana, and the other led by Michigan Court of Appeals judge Bill Schuette who co-chaired a late-starting coalition between medical, business and law enforcement groups who were against Proposal 1 saying that it would lead to increased crime and widespread abuse, especially by young people. They also argued that there was no scientific evidence that marijuana is an effective treatment for glaucoma, cancer, AIDS and other conditions.

The MPP campaign spent over 1.5 million dollars in Michigan collecting signatures and raising awareness among voters, and then in the run up to the voting they spend over a quarter of a million more dollars countering the late-starting coalition’s campaign. In contrast, the anti-Proposal 1 coalition did not form until 2 months before the vote and raised only 125,000 dollars and aired one TV commercial.

According to Detroit News, Dianne Byrum, a spokesperson for Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care which supported Proposal 1, described the vote as a “victory for the patients”. Their stories “resonated with voters”, said Byrum, adding that the coalition campaign failed because their “scare tactics … were over the top and not believable”.

Schuette said that the coalition “waged a good fight and talked about the unintended consequences. But we were underfunded and came up short.”

Sources: Detroit Free Press, Associated Press, The Detroit News.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD.