“The City of Detroit has so few resources to deal with real crime — robbery, murder, vandalism, breaking and entering — we don’t have time for this,” activists say
DETROIT, MI — Detroit residents hoping to vote on a proposal to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana may have to wait a little longer than expected, as the city plans to appeal last week’s Michigan Court of Appeals ruling that city officials illegally blocked the measure from appearing on the city’s ballot.
Krystal Crittendon, counsel for Detroit’s legal department, says the city plans to file an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, likely delaying attempts to place the measure on the August primary ballot.
In a 2-1 ruling Friday, the Michigan Court of Appeals said Detroit’s city clerk and election commission violated their ”clear legal duty” by blocking Detroit voters from considering the proposal, which would have amended the city code to legalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana by adults on private property.
“It was outside the authority of (city officials) to consider the substance and effect of the initiative and defendants have a clear legal duty to place the matter on the ballot,” the court wrote.
The appeals court’s decision reversed a ruling of a Wayne County judge, who upheld the decision by the Detroit Elections Commission to keep the issue off the ballot because they believed the proposal conflicts with state drug law.
Tim Beck, leader of the Coalition for a Safer Detroit, who organized the effort to put the issue before voters, acknowledges that state and federal law both supersede city code, and possession of marijuana by someone other than a medical marijuana patient would remain illegal under state law.
Detroit police could still charge a marijuana user under state law if they choose, even if the measure passes. But they hope that the passage would send a message to local officials: “The City of Detroit has so few resources to deal with real crime — robbery, murder, vandalism, breaking and entering — we don’t have time for this,” Beck said.
The city had argued that they could not enact an ordinance that conflicts with state law and, therefore, could not place the “symbolic” initiative on the ballot.