DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - Voters in several Michigan cities backed local ballot issues to decriminalize marijuana in some cases.
In Detroit, more than 60 percent of ballots counted supported Proposal M, which would allow adults over age 21 to possess less than an ounce of marijuana on personal property without criminal prosecution. However, marijuana use and possession will still be crimes under state law.
“I’m not sure it’ll give anyone a sense of comfort to know that just because you’ve got a certain level, that it’s going to allow you immunity on the state level. That’s one where you see things that may conflict,” Len Wolfe, a government policy attorney, told Mlive.com.
In Ypsilanti, 74 percent of voters approved a proposal to redirect police efforts away from enforcing laws against marijuana use in the city. The proposal states that use or consumption of one ounce or less of usable marijuana by adults 21-years or older will be the lowest priority of law enforcement personnel.
Ypsilanti City Council Member Ricky Jefferson told AnnArbor.com he wasn’t surprised voters overwhelming approved the proposal, especially since medicinal marijuana is already being sold at dispensaries in the city.
“It’s a lot of pressure on the police department,” Jefferson said.
In Flint, about 60 percent of ballots counted were in favor of a change to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. The yes vote will make it legal for anyone 19-years or older to possess restricted amounts of the drug on private property.
Brian Morrissey, of the Coalition for a Safer Flint, told The Flint Journal that the initiative could help free up city police officers so they could focus on combating violent crime.
“This is going to be something that is going to make our city more safe,” Morrissey said before the vote.
In Grand Rapids, about 60 percent of voters approved a proposal to amend the city charter so people possessing or using marijuana no longer would be subject to a misdemeanor offense. Instead, marijuana violations would become civil infractions after Tuesday’s vote.
“This (vote) is about redefining what the substance means, taking away the stigma. There’s a lot of wasted energy (trying to crack down on marijuana),” voter Matthew Peterson, 30, told the Grand Rapids Press.
In Kalamazoo, a proposal to establish medical marijuana dispensaries passed by nearly a two-to-one margin. The charter amendment calls for a licensing system to regulate dispensaries, the owners of which would pay an annual $3,000 registration fee. However, the legality of this amendment rides on a supreme court case.
Despite voters’ approval of the above proposals, marijuana is still illegal under state and federal law – leading some law enforcement agencies to say they will continue to make arrests over the drug. That means the feds can still prosecute an individual for possessing or selling marijuana.
However, the proposals will have an effect at the local law enforcement level, because now local officials can place marijuana possession as a low priority offense.
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