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While supporters continue to fight a decidedly uphill battle to put a comprehensive marijuana decriminalization measure on the state ballot, a Detroit effort to place a more modest local initiative before voters was set to hit the streets Election Day.

By the time you read this, proponents of a medical marijuana initiative hope to have gathered the 5,000 or so valid signatures they figure are needed to get the issue before the city’s voters.

Insurance company owner Tim Beck told News Hits on Monday that the plan was to have 40 paid petition-gatherers working the polls when Detroiters turned out to select a new mayor. That’s in contrast to the unpaid volunteers gathering signatures statewide for what’s being called the Personal Responsibility Amendment.

“The beauty of that is that all the signatures we gather will be valid,” said Beck, a 49-year-old Detroit resident. Beck said $8,000 has been set aside to fund the effort.

“Our hope,” said Beck, “is to get this done in one day.”

The Detroit measure, Beck explained, is patterned after a measure approved by voters in Mendocino County, Calif. Residents in that prime pot-growing region voted to mandate that law enforcement stop hassling small-time growers when there are more dangerous criminals to target. So far, said Beck, it is working.

In Detroit, the focus will be on protecting people who receive a doctor’s OK to use pot as a form of medical treatment. If eventually approved, the measure would mandate that police make the arrest of medical marijuana users their lowest priority. Beck began planning this effort back in March, and for the most part he has managed to move forward without attracting media attention.

“We’re not looking to sensationalize this,” said Beck. “We’re looking to win.”

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette, Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail

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