Michigan Election ResultsBy Charmie Gholson
While Washington State and Colorado voters ushered in a new era of legalized and regulated marijuana use on Election Day, Michigan voters swiftly passed marijuana reform measures in all five cities with ballot initiatives.
Despite the tired calls from the Flint and Grand Rapids Police chiefs and Detroit City Council which state, “we have to follow state and federal law no matter what,” the reality of the situation couldn’t be clearer—whether they like it or not.
Keep at it Michigan; the end of marijuana prohibition is near.
Proposal M — Detroit
The Detroit measure passed with 60 percent, and removes penalties for adults over the age of 21 if they are in possession of one ounce of marijuana or less. The bill allows possession, but does not impact growth or distribution and is slated to take effect Dec. 6.
While the Detroit Police has no comment, the City Council has come out swinging. Detroit City Councilwoman Brenda Jones told the Detroit Free Press that under federal and state law, possession of marijuana “is still illegal . . . we will not be writing an ordinance that says something that’s illegal is legal.”
However, Council President Charles Pugh said of the vote, “It was really a waste of our time.”
City Code Amendment (Subsection 31-27.1.2) — Flint
In Flint, 64 percent of the voters said “yes” to decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and related paraphernalia on private property for adults 19 and older. The vote doesn’t matter much to Police Chief Alvern Lock, who quickly gave the metaphorical finger to the will of the people.
“We’re still police officers and we’re still empowered to enforce the laws of the state of Michigan and the United States,” said Alvern. “We’re still going to enforce the laws as we’ve been enforcing them.”
Brian Morrissey of the Coalition for a Safer Flint, the group that gathered the signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, said, “If the city police want to follow state law rather than city law, then maybe the state should be paying their salary.”
Proposal 2 — Grand Rapids
Proposal 2, which counts marijuana possession/use as a infraction and sets the fine at $25, garnered 58.9 percent of the vote citywide with 75 percent of the vote in most of the Second and Third wards.
Proposal 2 supporters included the mayor and three city commissioners, who said marijuana decriminalization will free up city police to focus on what they consider more serious crimes. The proposal will take effect Dec. 6, but Police Chief Kevin Belk said police will continue to enforce state marijuana laws.
“The Police Department is currently seeking further information from the City Attorney about legal issues surrounding this charter amendment,” Belk said in an email Nov. 7. “Until further direction from the City Attorney or City Manager is received, the Police Department will continue to enforce the state law.”
Grand Rapids City Attorney Catherine Mish, a frequent MMJ opponent, has said she plans to meet with Belk and City Manager Greg Sundstrom to review her interpretation of whether the charter amendment will take effect as soon as election results are certified.
City Charter Amendment Proposal #7 — Kalamazoo
Proposal #7 passed by 63 percent, allowing the city to license and regulate three MMJ dispensaries. Dispensary owners will pay an annual $3,000 registration fee to the city and facilities will have to be located in “visible store-front locations in appropriate commercial districts.”
Kalamazoo City Attorney Clyde Robinson said he is waiting for the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision on the McQueen case (concerning the legality of patient-to-patient sales), noting that results have to be certified by the Board of Canvassers. “At this point,” he told MLive, “there are a lot of unanswered legal questions, despite people wanting to know the next steps,” Robinson said. “I don’t have any answers at this point.”
Lowest Law Enforcement Priority (LLEP) Initiative — Ypsilanti
74 percent of voters approved the proposal to redirect police efforts away from adult (21 years and over) use/consumption of one ounce or less, making this lowest priority of law enforcement personnel.
Ypsilanti Police Chief Amy Walker effectively danced on both sides of the issue. In an email to AnnArbor.com last month, she said that while her cash strapped police department will devote its time to more serious issues, “the present state of the marijuana law in Michigan is in flux and I understand that the legal community is waiting for direction from the Michigan Supreme Court.”
Walker also added that “the Ypsilanti Police Department takes all crime seriously, and we are under oath to enforce the law. Because of limited resources, we must devote the most effort to the most serious crimes against people and property.”