"Nothing Has Changed" since Detroit Voters Approved Marijuana DecriminalizationBy Thomas H. Clarke December 13, 2012
Police: "Nothing has changed for us. Marijuana is still illegal for us according to state law. Anyone who doesn't have a medical marijuana card will be arrested."
DETROIT, MI — On November 6, voters in Detroit overwhelmingly passed a measure that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults in the crime-plagued Motor City, but “nothing has changed,” according to police, who have not stopped making marijuana arrests in the city.
The voter-approved proposal, passed by an overwhelming two-thirds majority, removed all penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana on private property by anyone 21 years of age or older.
State police said the city measure does not apply to them, as they enforce state – not city – laws. Possession of any amount of marijuana in Michigan is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and a year in prison.
“We don’t enforce local ordinances, so nothing has changed for us,” said State Police Lt. Mike Shaw. “Marijuana is still illegal for us according to state law. Anyone who doesn’t have a medical marijuana card will be arrested for state [marijuana] possession.”
The Detroit Police Department, who have their hands full in a city boasting one of the highest violent crime rates in the United States, have not made a public determination as to how they will proceed with marijuana possession incidents.
“This legislation is being reviewed by the city of Detroit Law Department,” said Detroit Police Sgt. Eren Stephens of the Public Information Office.
And the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department seems equally unclear on how they’ll handle small amounts of marijuana possessed on private property.
“We have not developed a policy yet on that issue,” said Dennis Niemiec of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s being looked at by our training and legal departments.”
While most law enforcement agencies operating in Detroit seem unsure about how they’ll proceed, members of Detroit City Council flat out dismissed the public’s will after the proposal passed.
Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh said the vote “was really a waste of our time, according to the Detroit Free Press; and Councilwoman Brenda Jones said, “We will not be writing an ordinance that says something that’s illegal is legal.”
Detroit was among five Michigan cities that voted to reduce or eliminate penalties of marijuana possession to free up police resources.
Flint passed a similar proposal to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana for personal use; Grand Rapids decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, making the violation now a $25 civil infraction; Kalamazoo voters by a 2-to-1 ratio supported changes to law that allow for three city-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries; and 74 percent of Ypsilanti voters approved a measure to make marijuana possession and use of less than one ounce the “lowest priority of law enforcement.”
Flint Police have also said that they will continue making marijuana arrests despite the voter-approved measure in their city.