LANSING (AP) -- Just over a year ago, Michigan voters put their stamp of approval on measures loosening restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and letting some sick people use marijuana for medical reasons.
Now state lawmakers -- mostly conservative Republicans -- are trying to change both measures, saying they need clarification to ensure there's enough oversight of the research and marijuana use the ballot measures allowed.
Legislators are struggling to find the fine line between better defining voter-approved measures that are vague or pose enforcement problems and upholding the people's will.
"We walk a tightrope here," Sen. Bruce Patterson said during a recent Senate Health Policy Committee hearing on stem cell legislation.
The Republican from Wayne County's Canton Township says the Legislature often has to put "flesh on the bones" of a constitutional amendment, but must respect the will of the people while doing so.
Nearly 53 percent of Michigan voters approved loosening restrictions on the research that scientists say could lead to breakthroughs in treating spinal cord injuries, cancer, diabetes, Lou Gehrig's disease, Alzheimer's and other illnesses.
The constitution was changed to allow embryos left over from fertility treatments that otherwise would have been thrown out to be donated for research.
The Senate committee has approved bills that would add reporting requirements for researchers, set up penalties for violations and define terms contained in the constitutional amendment. One measure defines which embryos would be unsuitable for implantation and eligible for donation.
Stem cell researchers say the bill's definition contradicts the intention of Proposal 2 and would prevent the donation of embryos with known genetic defects that scientists most want to study.
Embryonic stem cell supporters note the legislation is supported by Republican Sen. Tom George of Kalamazoo County, Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference -- all vocal opponents of the 2008 ballot proposal.
"I don't see anything in these bills that meaningfully adds to the regulations that we already abide by," says Sean Morrison, a University of Michigan researcher. "These bills repeat a lot of things that are already out there and they introduce some new things that would damage our ability to do the science."
George, one of several Republicans running for governor in 2010, says stem cell supporters are exaggerating the scope of the legislation and may want to avoid having reporting requirements or penalties for violations spelled out in state statute. He says donation of embryos the researchers want would still be allowed under terms of his legislation.
Stem cell research supporters could go to court if the Legislature passes a measure that might contradict Proposal 2.
The measure says no laws can be passed that would restrict or discourage the research.
But supporters of the proposed changes say they don't cross that line.
"The requirements in these proposed Michigan laws are no more detailed or demanding than the laws in states that are considered the most research-friendly in the country," Right to Life of Michigan legislative director Ed Rivet said in a statement.
Stem cell research isn't the only 2008 ballot proposal getting sized up for a potential makeover in 2010. Bills are pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee that would change Michigan's medical marijuana law approved in November 2008 by 63 percent of voters.
Bill sponsors are worried that the program, which allows thousands of patients to grow their own otherwise-illegal marijuana, doesn't have proper oversight.
Courts are dealing with patients who say they were wrongfully arrested for possessing marijuana.
Several cities are passing their own ordinances in an attempt to control the growth and distribution of the drug.
"There's a lot of questions within the system," says Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Norton Shores. "We're looking to create a system we can trust."
He says the legislation isn't an attempt to shut off the supply of marijuana to the more than 7,000 patients who have gotten approval from their doctors to use the drug and are registered with the state.
But lawmakers sponsoring the new bills are worried because there's no process in place to inspect marijuana growers and verify they're staying within their 12-plant limit, an issue that could grow as thousands more people seek to join the program.
Medical marijuana supporters say the lawmakers' proposed fix would undermine the voter-approved goal of getting the drug to patients who need it to relieve pain and other symptoms.
Under the bills, patients authorized to use marijuana would no longer be allowed to grow their own supply.
The state would license up to 10 facilities to grow marijuana and the drug would be distributed through pharmacists and doctors, much like a prescription medicine.
Critics say that federal law doesn't authorize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, so doctors wouldn't write the prescriptions and pharmacies wouldn't fill them, essentially cutting off all legal access to the drug.
Oakland County resident Robert Redden is authorized to use marijuana to relieve hip pain and was one of the first people arrested for growing marijuana after the ballot measure passed. A judge dismissed the charges.
"Let's let this law work a little bit longer before you guys start tinkering with it," Redden told lawmakers at a recent hearing.