Can police still arrest you for marijuana possession if your city has decriminalized marijuana?
Michigan has been picked by the High Times as one of the eight states mostly likely to legalize recreational marijuana. According to the High Times, Michigan was named because of the “wildly successful” efforts cities all over Michigan have made to decriminalize marijuana.
In this article, you will find those cities and what they really have to say about recreational marijuana.
2016 Marijuana Friendly Cities in Michigan
In an article I wrote back in 2013, I explained why Ann Arbor is considered to have more relaxed laws when it comes to marijuana. It all started back in 1967, when Detroit’s own poet and activist was arrested and sentenced to prison for 10 years for selling two joints to an undercover police officer.
In 1971, a huge freedom rally called John Sinclair Freedom Rally was held in Ann Arbor at the Crisler Arena. John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Bob Seger, Stevie Wonder, and 15,000 people came together. That next year, 1972, Ann Arbor leaders decriminalized marijuana. Back then it was a $5 ticket for possession of two ounces of less.
Today in Ann Arbor, according to the City’s Charter,
“No person shall possess, control, use, give away, or sell marijuana or cannabis,”
“Violations of this section shall be civil infractions. Persons convicted of violating this section shall be fined $25.00 for the first offense, $50.00 for the second offense, $100.00 for the third or subsequent offense and no incarceration, probation, nor shall any other punitive or rehabilitative measure be imposed.”
Please note that University of Michigan does not operate under the charter. The University of Michigan police officers will enforce state law on any property owned and managed by the university.
In November of 2014, the city of Berkley voted on a ballot proposal to amend and add a new section entitled marijuana. Here is what was passed on that November ballot,
“Nothing in the Code of Ordinances shall apply to the use, possession or transfer of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, on private property not used by the public, or transportation of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, by a person who has attained the age of 21 years.”
Please note, that in the press release that announced the change to the ordinance the following question was posed and answered,
Question: “If I am age 21 years and found in possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana on private property, what will happen to me?”
Answer: “If determined to be in violation of state law, you will be subject to prosecution. The City Charter amendment only precludes enforcement of City ordinance, but does not affect state law or its enforcement.”
Proposal M, which was an ordinance to amend the 1984 Detroit City Code exempts adults, those 21 years and older from criminal prosecution for use or possession of less than one ounce of marijuana on private property in the City of Detroit.
Please note that Michigan Live reported that Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Woody has said that the Detroit Police Department continues to see recreational marijuana as illegal and it will be enforced that way.
According to an article by the Daily Tribune, an ordinance was passed that said that for those 21 years and older the possession or transfer of less than an ounce of marijuana is legal.
However, that same articles that Ferndale Chief of Police Timothy Collins said, “Our job does not change,” and those using marijuana could be charged under state law.
“It is state law and we are not empowered to simply not enforce it. In fact, we are sworn to uphold state law.” ~ Chief of Police Timothy Collins
Back in 2012, the residents of Flint passed as city ordinance that for those 19 year and older removed any penalties who possess less than an ounce of marijuana.
However, according to an article by Michigan Live, the city of Flint called the new city ordinance “symbolic in nature”. The Flint Chief of Police has said, “We’re still going to enforce the laws as we’ve been enforcing them.”
Ever since Grand Rapids residents votes to decriminalize marijuana there has been a debate on the subject. In fact, this past December the Daily Chronic released an article that said the Michigan Supreme Court is upholding Grand Rapids decriminalization law.
The amendment to the city ordinance allows for marijuana possession to be a civil infraction, with no jail time and fines punishable from $25 – $100.
In August of 2014, according to BallotPedia, Hazel Park residents approved a measure that decriminalizes the use and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana for those 21 years and older on private property.
However, in an article by the Oakland Press, the Hazel Park Police Chief Martin Barner said that even with the new approved measure “the way his department handles marijuana will not change.”
“I’m going to continue to enforce the laws of the state and federal laws,” Barner said. “And until the city council, mayor, city attorney and other administration tell me to do otherwise, (we will enforce it).”
In 2014, according to Ballotpedia, it was approved that those 21 years and older could possess, use, or transfer less than one ounce of marijuana on private property.
Section 18-159 in the Jackson, Michigan Code of Ordinances says the possession, use, or transfer of less than an ounce of marijuana for those on private property and 21 years or older has been decriminalized.
According to an article published by Michigan Live, Jackson Police Chief Matthew Heins plans to follow the new city ordinance. He was quoted says, “First and foremost, it was my objective to enforce what voters voted on,” “We struggled with some details in the law, but it’s the law.”
Those 21 years of age and older caught with less than an ounce of marijuana now face $100 fine and 93 days in jail. In addition, according to an article by Raw Story, a ballot initiative was passed that made marijuana the lowest priority for law enforcement.
With a vote of 63%, Michigan’s state capital decriminalized marijuana. According to Michigan Live, the residents voted to amend the city’s charter. Those age 21 years or older may possess, use, and transfer one ounce of marijuana on private property.
While researching this article, I found noteworthy information provided by the City Attorney. This noteworthy information includes a five point guideline for the residents of Lansing. One guideline points out that the charter amendment was only to the city ordinance and marijuana remains illegal under state and federal law. The guidelines also inform residents about the possibility of being prosecuted under state and federal laws.
Last year, residents of East Lansing also voted to decriminalize marijuana. Those 21 years of age or older may possess, transfer, and use up to an ounce of marijuana on private property.
According to an article by Michigan Live, the ordinance will not impact Michigan State University.
Like many of the cities on this list, residents of Mount Pleasant approved an amendment to their city ordinance. This amendment, according to Michigan Live, says that nothing in the city ordinance will apply to the use, possession, or transfer of less than one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 years and older on private property.
Like many of the cities on this list, the Mount Pleasant police department says the vote will not change how the “department does business.” One police officer told Michigan Live, that while the enforcement of marijuana will not change, as an activist this vote is symbolic and will help to make bigger changes in the future.
Here the residents passed an initiative measure. This measure removed criminal penalties that were attached to small amounts of marijuana. According to BallotPedia, it was made legal for adult 21 years and older to use, possess, and transfer up to one ounce on private property. In addition it was also passed that marijuana-related offenses be made the lowest priority for law enforcement.
In another article by Michigan Live, it was reported that the residents of Saginaw passed a proposal that added new section to the city charter. This section bans the city leaders “from passing any ordinances that restrict the use, possession or transport of small amounts of marijuana on private property by those 21 or older.”
The article also reported Saginaw County Sheriff William Federspiel saying that the deputies will stop citing people for minor marijuana violations. However, in an article by Michigan Radio, the Saginaw Chief of Police Robert Ruth does not plan on having the department change the way their do their jobs.
A student run organization on Eastern Michigan’s campus known as Students for Sensible Drug Policy put together a city-wide ballot to make marijuana the lowest priority in the City of Ypsilanti for law enforcement. According to their website, the students gathered the signatures. The initiative passed by 74%.
It is interesting to note how many law enforcement agencies have said that even while voters have passed marijuana decriminalization that they will continue to enforce state law.
Marijuana currently remains illegal under state law and federal law. This can make for a confusing situation. Make sure if you or someone you know has been charged with a marijuana related offense, make sure you have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.
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*While many cities have voted to decriminalize marijuana, not all ballot proposals were passed.