If yesterday’s elections in Hazel Park and Oak Park are any indication, voters in cities and towns across Michigan will be standing up for sensible marijuana policies in November. Voters in both communities voted to make it legal under local law for adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana on private property. The measures received 62% of the vote in Hazel Park and 53% in Oak Park.
Congratulations to organizers Debra Young and Tim Beck and to the many activists who helped make these victories possible!
Hazel Park and Oak Park represent the first of 17 cities in which similar measures either have or will likely be added to the ballot. For a complete list of cities and the measures’ current statuses, click here. These wins in Oak Park and Hazel Park follow an uninterrupted streak of victories in Michigan cities in recent years, including Lansing, Ferndale, Jackson, Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Flint.
These votes do not change state law — which still makes criminals of people who choose a substance that is safer than alcohol and many prescription drugs. But they send a very important message to local law enforcement authorities, elected officials, and state government: Voters are sick and tired of the failure of the prohibition on marijuana and want change!
In other good news for sensible marijuana policies, Congressmen Justin Amash (R) and Dan Benishek (R) — who co-sponsor the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act — survived primary challenges.
Advocates across the state of Michigan are hitting the streets in a major push to gather signatures that would decriminalize possession of small amounts marijuana in up to 18 cities. They have until July 29 to get the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. If you have not gotten involved already, it’s not too late to help!
Three communities out of the 18 have already qualified. The current effort follows similar campaigns in numerous other cities in years past. Last year, voters in Lansing, Ferndale, and Jackson voted overwhelmingly in favor decriminalization measures. In 2012, voters supported similar voter initiatives in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Flint. MPP wishes to thank everyone involved in this tremendous grassroots effort that is sweeping communities in Michigan!
While election day saw an overwhelming amount of media coverage surrounding marijuana issues, some of the details were confusing to people not living in those states, so here are the details for Michigan. Three cities in Michigan voted to remove criminal penalties associated with possession or transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana. The ordinances apply to those 21 and over on private property. Ferndale and Jackson voters passed city ordinances by 69% and 61% respectively, while voters in the capital city, Lansing, passed an amendment to their city charter with 63% of the vote. Ferndale, Jackson, and Lansing all join the ranks of other Michigan cities like Detroit, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and Kalamazoo, which had previously removed criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession or set marijuana as the lowest law enforcement priority.
Law enforcement is still able to enforce state and federal laws against marijuana, but local cops have the option to follow these ordinances and not charge adults for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Activists will be playing close attention to whether or not they heed the will of the voters.
One year ago, Colorado and Washington became the first states to make marijuana legal for adults, and Massachusetts joined the growing list of states that allows marijuana for medical uses. We had a big night last night. Marijuana policy reform measures cruised to victory in states across the nation.
• Portland, Maine became the first city on the East Coast to legalize marijuana. Voters approved Question 1 by a margin of 67-33, removing all penalties for possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by adults 21 and older. MPP was the largest backer of the initiative, and the huge showing of support in Maine’s most populated city bodes well for our efforts to pass a statewide measure in 2016 to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
• Colorado voters approved a statewide ballot measure 65-35 to establish taxes on legal marijuana sales. Proposition AA was referred to the ballot by the General Assembly in accordance with the historic legalization initiative approved by Colorado voters exactly one year ago today. MPP supported AA because it underscores the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana sales instead of forcing them into the underground market, as well as helps ensure cooperation from the federal government.
• In Michigan, voters in three cities adopted initiatives to remove local penalties for adult marijuana possession. In the state capital, Lansing, about 62% of voters cast their ballots in support of ending marijuana prohibition. The measures in Jackson and Ferndale also won by sizeable margins.
Now it's time to start working on racking up even more victories in 2014!