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.
Yesterday, voters in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Tacoma, Washington directed local law enforcement to make marijuana possession the lowest enforcement priority. The measures passed by 2:1 margins, garnering nearly 65% of the vote in Tacoma and 66% in Kalamazoo.
With only 61-66% of homicide cases in this country cleared every year, and only 12% of burglaries cleared, it’s not surprising that voters think police should have more important things to do than arresting individuals who possess a substance safer than alcohol. While crimes with actual victims went unsolved, police found time for the arrests, bookings, and court time associated with more than 750,000 marijuana possession arrests in the U.S. in 2009.
Kalamazoo and Tacoma are far from alone in directing police to find better things to do than arrest marijuana users. More than a dozen cities and counties —with a total population of over 3.3 million — have directed law enforcement to de-prioritize marijuana possession enforcement.
Congratulations to all who were involved in these sensible measures that will prevent the convictions and resulting stigmatization and heartache that can haunt people for life.
This is one more step in the turning tide. In less than a year, voters in Colorado, Washington, and possibly other states will be deciding whether to replace marijuana prohibition with regulation in their states. With 50% of Americans now supporting making marijuana use legal, we are hopeful that the first states will have opted out of prohibition by this time next year.