In November 2014, five Michigan cities voted to decriminalize possession of marijuana. The cities are Berkley, Huntington Woods, Mount Pleasant, Port Huron, and Saginaw. These are just the most recent additions to a long list of cities making a change to their marijuana laws.
Michigan has a lengthy history of decriminalizing marijuana possession, starting with Ann Arbor in 1972. The change happened in response to poet-activist John Sinclair getting a ten year prison sentence for selling only two joints to undercover cops.
More Cities Follow In The Steps Of Ann Arbor
Back then, possession in Ann Arbor could lead to a ticket with a $5 fine. Today it is $25 with no specific amount of the drug outlined in the city charter.
In recent years, many more cities have followed Ann Arbor’s example.
In 2012, Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids joined in with similar initiatives. Detroit’s proposal stops criminal prosecution for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people over age 21. Flint is the same but the age is 19. Grand Rapids made possession a civil infraction like Ann Arbor.
In 2013, Ferndale, Jackson, and Lansing joined the mix as well. Last August, Oak Park and Hazel Park also decriminalized small amounts for adults over 21.
In November, Pleasant Ridge voted to change police focus by making marijuana enforcement a low priority.
However, an important thing to keep in mind is that there is still a conflict between federal and state law regarding marijuana possession. Possession of marijuana is a federal crime. This makes the issue complex and raises interpretation issues for local police.
Late last month the U.S. Congress took a step forward toward legalization. A provision was tucked within a federal spending measure that prohibits federal agents from raiding retail operations in states where medical pot is legal. If Michigan ever allows dispensaries again, these establishments would no longer be the target of federal raids. Of course individuals still will be required to follow state law regarding medical marijuana, but this represents an incredibly encouraging shift in federal public policy.
The changes sweeping the state show how public perception is shifting regarding marijuana use in general. This is paving the way for potential changes in the future. Could complete legalization of marijuana be on the horizon?