ANN ARBOR, MI — Michigan State Representative Jeff Irwin plans to introduce a bill to the state legislature that would reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Rep. Irwin (D, Ann Arbor) says the bill is currently in the draft stage, and he hopes to introduce the legislation within the next month.
Irwin acknowledges that there may be considerable opposition from his colleagues at the state house, but he believes it is time for lawmakers to have a serious discussion about reforming the state’s marijuana laws.
“Trying to lock folks up, spending 100’s of millions of dollars in courts and police, misappropriating our public safety investment against more violent crimes, all these issues are driving the public towards a more reasonable and responsible set of laws around marijuana and that’s what I would favor.”
Irwin hints that many lawmakers may privately support reform, but are not yet willing to publicly support legislation.
“There is far more interest than most people realize,” Rep. Irwin says, adding that public opinion could easily help change their mind.
At least one key Republican lawmaker has said he would be willing to listen to Irwin’s bill with an open mind.
“I’m willing to discuss it but I don’t want to get too far ahead of the curve,” says the GOP chair of the Senate Appropriations committee Sen. Roger Kahn, adding that although he is not in favor of decriminalization, he could support a bill if it was “done the right way.”
Several cities in Michigan, including Flint, Detroit and Grand Rapids, have passed local ordinances that decriminalize marijuana possession within their communities, but despite voter approval, these measures have largely been ignored by police, who continue to make arrests under state laws.
Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana in Michigan could result in a year in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.