Michigan may be about to get more relaxed.
Voters in a about 20 Michigan communities – including Berkley, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Oak Park and Hazel Park – are expected to vote Nov. 4 on ballot initiatives easing penalties and decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Volunteers with Safer Michigan Coalition argue decriminalizing marijuana isn’t just about protecting pot smokers from arrest and jail time, but sending a message to law enforcement about where precious resources should be spent.
Debra Young, 56, of Ferndale – where marijuana was decriminalized in a two-to-one vote last November – said such votes send a message to law enforcement that the community wants them to dedicate limited resources to higher-priority crimes.
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“This is not how people want their tax dollars spent,” Young told the newspaper.
Tim Beck of the Safer Michigan Coalition cited historic wins at the ballot box – voters have already said yes to marijuana law reform in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Ypsilanti – and told the Metro Times he thinks the measures will sail through in elections this fall. In Lansing, pot was decriminalized in the 1970s.
“We’ve never lost,” said Beck, a 63-year-old retired health-insurance executive from Detroit who has financed many of the petition drives. “These are not radical proposals. The majority of Michigan citizens believe that small-time marijuana should be way down at the bottom of the pile of offenses, and that’s why we’re winning.”
Beck told the Free Press a statewide law would be preferable, but pushing for it is unrealistic politically because Gov. Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette and most other high-profile Republicans, who have a majority on both chambers of the legislature, oppose decriminalization.
“That’s why we’re going from city to city, trying to make it impossible for the people in Lansing to ignore this any longer,” Beck told the Free Press.
The more cities that pass marijuana move Michigan closer to the “the tipping point for Michigan to become a decriminalized state,” Beck told the Metro Times.
In Berkley, where supporters of marijuana reform planned to turn in signatures Tuesday to get the measure before voters next fall, Mayor Phil O’Dwyer said an ordinance decriminalizing pot “would send a certain level of acceptance of marijuana” to young people. As director of mental health services at Garden City Hospital in Garden City, O’Dwyer counsels drug abusers as part of his practice.
Law enforcement in several communities that have continued to enforce state and federal laws against the possession of cannabis."We're still police officers and we're still empowered to enforce the laws of the state of Michigan and the United States," Flint Police Chief Alvern Lock told MLive/The Flint Journal after Flint voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. "We're still going to enforce the laws as we’ve been enforcing them."