LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Marijuana laws in Michigan would be transformed under a proposed amendment to the state constitution to legalize the drug that backers hope to place before voters in 2006.
A group based in Sterling Heights called Win-the-War has begun circulating petitions for a proposal to regulate marijuana in Michigan in the same way as liquor, and hopes to collect more than 320,000 petition signatures by Oct. 1, the Detroit Free Press reported Friday.
Bruce Ritchie, who describes himself as a full-time activist, told a panel of state elections officials Thursday that legalization of marijuana would lower crime rates and the use of hard drugs by getting marijuana out of the underworld and protect kids by setting the legal age of consumption at 21.
"This is about controlling and regulating marijuana to take it off the streets and out of the black market," Ritchie said in a Friday story by the Lansing State Journal.
If approved, the initiative would push Michigan further than any other state toward legalizing marijuana and condone the possession, purchase or sale of pot and hemp products by adults 21 and older, Ritchie said.
The Board of State Canvassers approved the form of a petition being used by the group, but made clear that it was not endorsing the proposal.
In addition to legalizing pot for adults, the measure would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients under 21.
Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III disagrees with Ritchie's contention that taking marijuana off the streets would be a better way of protecting children than continuing to criminalize it.
"Seeing how well we have controlled the availability of liquor to minors, I don't have a lot of faith that this would take pot away from children," Dunnings said.
Detroit and Ann Arbor passed medical marijuana initiatives last year, but the new laws are in limbo as the U.S. Supreme Court ponders whether to allow patients to circumvent a federal ban on marijuana.
Eleven states have passed medical marijuana laws since 1996, but none have permitted an outright decriminalization of pot.