LANSING (WWJ) - A liberal state lawmaker from Ann Arbor on Wednesday formally introduced legislation to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana.
Under the bill introduced by Michigan State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), possession of an ounce or less of pot would be a civil infraction, punishable by a fine that would be based on whether the violation is a first, second, or third offense. Current law currently classifies possession as a misdemeanor with jail time or heavy fines as the penalty.
“We know, and the people here in Michigan know, that marijuana prohibition is not working,” Irwin said at a new conference at the Capitol.
“Despite the fact that we’re spending a minimum of $325 million a year on arresting, trying and incarcerating marijuana users in this state, we know marijuana has never been more available. We know that law enforcement has not been successful at keeping marijuana out of the hands of anyone in this state,” he said.
The bill has some backing from the other side of the aisle as well. Co-sponsor, GOP State Representative Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake), said he wanted to participate to show bi-partisan support for the marijuana debate.
Co-sponsors also included Democratic Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright of Muskegon and Republican Rep. Mike Callton of Nashville.
Supporter Chuck Ream of the Safer Michigan Coalition attended Wednesday’s hearing on the issue.
I’m an American, and I believe in American values, and the United States is based on individual freedom,” said Ream. “And now, this drug war is a really a trick to destroy everything that is American — to destroy individual freedom.”
“We have seven times as many people in jail than when I was in college. Every community has a militarized SWAT team. So the drug war has succeeded — it hasn’t failed, it’s succeed. So now it’s time that they should just let it drop,” Ream said.
Ream is a Vietnam vet and says marijuana has helped him with an ulcer he’s had since the war. He’s able to smoke pot for medical reasons but says he thinks everyone else should have the same right.
After voters approved Proposal 1 in 2008, Michigan became the 13th U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana in April 2009. Now four years later, questions still remain surrounding distribution.
Seventeen states have adopted some type of marijuana decriminalization law.