Pubdate: Wed, 22 Dec 1999
Source: Saginaw News (MI)
Copyright: 1999 The Saginaw News
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Authors: The Saginaw News & Associated Press
Cited: The Personal Responsibility Amendment: 
http://198.109.165.99/ballot2000/ 

SAGINAW LAWYER PUSHES FREEDOM TO SMOKE POT

A Saginaw lawyer plans to spend a good part of next year pushing state
constitutional amendments, including one to allow anyone 21 or older to
grow and smoke marijuana at home.

Gregory Carl Schmid, 39, a criminal defense attorney, says he's "not a
kook" but is just interested in "getting government off our backs." He also
is behind two other initiatives for the November 2000 ballot.

One would make the Legislature part time, meeting from January to April.
The state Board of Canvassers approved the petition language Tuesday.

The other initiative - the Litigation Culture Amendment - would prohibit
state or local government from suing lawful industries for damages
resulting from the use of a legal product.

It would include lawsuits against the alcohol, tobacco, gambling and gun
industries.

While most people probably wouldn't consider leading a fight for a single
ballot proposal, Schmid said taking on three at once is far less daunting
than it seems, thanks to computer technology.

Tuesday, the Board of Canvassers also approved Schmid's request to collect
signatures over the Internet.

Voters can simply click:

http://www.voter2000.net/

download a form onto legal-size paper, fill it out and drop it in the mail.

"It should save us a couple of hundred-thousand dollars," Schmid said.

Schmid said he already has 1,000 volunteers ready to collect the 302,711
signatures needed to put the question on the ballot. The campaign will kick
off Jan. 14, he said.

The marijuana proposal, called the "Personal Responsibility Amendment,"
isn't about drugs, Schmid said.

"Freedom of conscious includes the personal responsibility to exercise
self-restraint and to assume the risk of any harmful and debilitating
personal consequences that could result from the abuse of marijuana,
alcohol or tobacco."

Schmid said he and many of the volunteers pushing the issue don't even
smoke marijuana.

"It's not about marijuana. It's a freedom issue," he said.

The proposal would limit growing to a "personal amount" of marijuana, not
to exceed three mature plants, seedlings and 3 ounces of dried marijuana.

It would allow medical use of marijuana for anyone younger than 21 who has
a debilitating condition and is in consultation with a physician. Minors
would have to have the consent of a custodial parent or guardian.

The amendment reads, in part, "Marijuana prohibition and forfeiture laws
tend to corrupt government and erode respect for the rule of law and
individual free will."

Chuck Thomas of the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project said many
efforts to legalize marijuana for nonmedical use are unsuccessful because
of poor organization and a lack of broad public support.

"I think we need a lot more public education to convince the American
people that prohibition does more harm than good before these initiatives
can pass," he said.

Thomas said that if the initiative were to pass, marijuana users still
would violate federal law and could face arrest by federal agents.

At the same time, he noted, federal agents make only about 10,000 of the
700,000 marijuana arrests nationwide each year.

"If it's possible to change state law to remove criminal penalties on the
state level, that's a good thing," Thomas said. "It would protect marijuana
users."

The proposal would ban the use and possession of marijuana while operating
a vehicle or machine, while a person was on parole, probation or
incarcerated or for any commercial activity.

State Sen. William Van Regenmorter, a Jenison Republican, said that
legalizing marijuana would in vite more people to drive under the influence
of drugs and lead to the use of more addictive drugs.

"The government has a role when there are implications to public safety,
when there are implications of therapy cost and the expansive use of
mind-altering drugs," he said. "I don't think it's fair to say the
potential to impact individuals is gone."

Schmid and his father, attorney Allan C. Schmid, were involved in the
successful 1992 initiative that created term limits for state lawmakers.

The effort to make the Legislature part time, he said, "finishes the job of
term limits."

Michigan is one of eight states with a full-time Legislature.

Lawmakers would continue to receive the same pay, benefits and pension,
Schmid said.

"We'd pay them triple if they would just stay away for a while," he said.

The litigation amendment would force legislators to "stop taking cover
behind lawsuits," Schmid said.

Michigan is among states that have successfully sued tobacco companies for
health costs covered by Medicaid.

Detroit and Wayne County are among entities suing gun manufacturers for
marketing guns in ways that increase the likelihood that they will become
involved in crime.

"These lawyers are trying to change public policy through the courts when
they cannot pursued legislators in an accountable setting to get policies
they want," Schmid said.

Schmid must submit all the petitions by July. 
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