After Prop 1's victory last November, we celebrated the end of marijuana prohibition in Michigan. But the effort to move marijuana policy reform forward isn't over. The frontlines have now shifted to cities and towns, where many municipalities are imposing bans on marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions.
It's not only about holding the line. Local activism opens up the possibility of more progress, too. Organizers in Ann Arbor, for example, are working to put a social use initiative on the ballot in 2020.
We encourage supporters of sensible marijuana policies in Michigan to get involved in political spaces at the local level in two main ways:
- Get to know your city council members and attend local meetings. Express your views on how you think legal marijuana could benefit your community — just remember to always be respectful.
- Help organize a local petition effort to repeal bans on marijuana businesses. Prop 1 allows residents to place certain marijuana policy questions on the ballot, provided they collect enough signatures, equal to 5% of the number of votes cast for governor. Click here to see a map of cities and towns where bans have already been enacted or are pending.
In some communities, bans on marijuana businesses are being imposed despite the fact that a majority of residents voted for Prop 1. We cannot sit on the sidelines while the will of the voters is ignored by city officials.
Let's bring our movement for sensible marijuana policies to the local level in 2019!
Moments ago, the Washington, D.C. City Council voted to decriminalize marijuana possession!
The measure removes criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals 18 years of age and older and replaces them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a parking ticket. It also removes penalties for possession of paraphernalia in conjunction with small amounts of marijuana, and it specifies that individuals cannot be searched or detained based solely on an officer’s suspicion of marijuana possession. Public use of marijuana would remain a criminal offense punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
The bill goes into effect this summer.
This means that, outside of Washington and Colorado, marijuana penalties are now less punitive in our nation’s capital than anywhere else in the country.
Washington, D.C. has the nation’s highest arrest rate for marijuana possession, according to a report released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union. Blacks accounted for 91% of marijuana possession arrests in the District, and they were eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite using marijuana at similar rates. The ACLU’s analysis concluded that enforcing marijuana possession laws, which make up nearly half of all drug offenses, costs the District more than $26.5 million per year. Hopefully, this new bill will have an immediate impact on this injustice.
The Portland Press Herald interviewed David Boyer, the Maine political director of Marijuana Policy Project, about the specifics of Portland’s proposed measure to legalize marijuana for adults.
Following a vote by City Council on Monday, June 15, voters residing within city limits will be able to decide whether to remove all civil and criminal penalties for the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Portland’s City Council voted 5-1 to send the citizen-initiated ordinance to voters, rather than immediately adopting it.
Watch the interview to hear Boyer’s explanation of how the law might work if the measure passes (and past trends in the city indicate that it will). Boyer said the bill’s primary purpose is to stop “punishing adults for using marijuana, a substance that is safer than alcohol.”
Three out of four Washington, D.C. voters would support changing District law to replace criminal penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket, according to a survey conducted last week by Public Policy Polling. Two-thirds (67%) said they believe law enforcement resources currently being used by District police to arrest individuals for marijuana possession should be directed toward other crimes.
The poll also found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of District voters would support a ballot measure similar to those approved by voters in Colorado and Washington in November, which made marijuana legal for adults and directed state officials to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. A solid majority (54%) said drug use should be treated as a public health issue, and people should no longer be arrested and locked up for possession of a small amount of any drug for personal use.
The survey of 1,621 randomly selected District voters was conducted April 10-11. The full results and crosstabs are available at https://www.mpp.org/DCpoll.
A national survey, released by the Pew Research Center on April 4, found that for the first time in its 40 years of polling on the issue, a majority of Americans (52%) support making marijuana legal. Just 45% said they think marijuana should remain illegal. Its report on the survey notes that a Gallup poll conducted in 1969 found just 12% supported making marijuana legal and 84% were opposed.
Given such strong support, MPP and our allies will be talking to community leaders and elected officials about various options for adopting a more sensible marijuana policy in D.C., including the possibility of a ballot initiative campaign as early as 2014.
This is one of those stories that churns my stomach.
In early September, officials in Shawnee County, Kansas, announced that due to budget constraints, they would stop prosecuting misdemeanor domestic violence cases. This resulted in many domestic violence cases being dismissed without prosecution throughout the county. Also, a flood of such cases is being sent to the Topeka legal system instead.
Topeka is in just as dire economic straits as the county in which it resides. After determining that they could not afford to prosecute these cases either, the city council is now considering a series of proposals to cut expenses from the budget. One of those is removing the portion of the city code criminalizing domestic battery. Adding insult to injury, literally, they’ve chosen Domestic Violence Awareness Month to have this discussion.
Can’t these city council members think of something less vile, hurtful, and dangerous to both individuals and society than domestic abuse to decriminalize?
We have a suggestion:
Topeka City Council
215 SE 7th, Room 255
Topeka, KS 66603-3914
Re: Decriminalization of Domestic Violence
It has come to my attention that the city of Topeka, facing unprecedented budget shortfalls, is considering repealing that portion of the city code that bans domestic battery as a means of forcing county officials to prosecute this crime – something Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor has apparently already stopped doing. In fact, since Taylor announced on September 8 that he would no longer be prosecuting misdemeanor cases in the City of Topeka, 30 domestic battery cases have not been pursued, and three alleged domestic violence offenders have been released – their cases put on hold – until the dispute over who will pay for prosecution of such cases has been resolved.
I write to offer a potential solution to this standoff: decriminalize misdemeanor marijuana possession instead. Many other governments, state and local, are facing similar budget deficiencies and are increasingly turning to marijuana decriminalization as a partial solution. In fact, just this year the Connecticut Legislature passed a measure decriminalizing possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana. In 2008, 65% of Massachusetts’ voters approved a similar measure, and ten other states – including neighboring Colorado and Nebraska – have also decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Marijuana decriminalization is also an increasingly popular solution at the municipal level. Columbia, Missouri, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and even your in-state neighbor, Lawrence, Kansas are among the many municipalities that have made possession of marijuana a civil, fineable offense with no possibility of jail time.
Not only would decriminalizing marijuana free up funds, but Topeka police, who would otherwise be tied up booking and processing non-violent marijuana users, could instead simply write a ticket and return to protecting the community from real threats to public safety, like domestic abusers. The same goes for judges, prosecutors, and district attorneys, like Mr. Taylor, should Shawnee County consider a similar move.
As our recession recovery continues, all across the country cities and counties are being forced to make decisions, many of them very difficult, about what services they can afford to provide. This decision, however, should be an easy one. People who choose to use marijuana instead of more dangerous drugs like alcohol are not public safety threats. On the other hand, those who would abuse their own loved ones are among the greatest threats to public safety in any community. Battered spouses should not be left defenseless in the name of enforcing misguided marijuana laws. Will you please consider this sensible alternative? I look forward to your reply.
Marijuana Policy Project
Hopefully, the Topeka City Council will listen to reason and at least seriously consider this option. After all, even staunch drug warriors have a hard time explaining how simply decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana can actually hurt anybody. In Massachusetts, where possession of less than an ounce is now treated as a civil infraction, law enforcement is recognizing that there have been no noticeable negative consequences to such a policy.
I’m pretty sure that everyone can agree domestic violence is much more harmful. Except, perhaps, the abusive scum that will walk if the city council moves ahead as planned.
We’ll let you know if they respond.