City of Berkley Marijuana Decriminalization Proposal (November 2014)

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A City of Berkley Marijuana Decriminalization Proposal ballot question was on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Berkley in Oakland County, Michigan, where it was approved.

This initiative measure was designed to remove any criminal penalties attached to possession and use of small amounts of marijuana. Specifically, the measure made it legal for any adult above the age of 21 to possess, use or transfer up to an ounce of marijuana on private property. State and federal laws criminalizing marijuana possession remained in effect.[1]

Initiative efforts to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana were announced in 18 cities throughout Michigan for 2014 ballots. Eleven qualified for the November 2014 ballot, while two were postponed to 2015 ballots and three did not make the ballot at all. Two were approved on August 5, 2014.[2][3]

Chuck Ream, executive director of the Safer Michigan Coalition, said, “Our goal is to try to have democracy recognized. Success would be if the [state] Legislature passes decriminalization.”[1]

Election results

City of Berkley Proposal
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 3,811 62.25%
No2,31137.75%

Election results via: Oakland County, Michigan

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot read as follows:[4]

A proposal to amend the City Charter to provide that no City 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.

Shall Chapter 6 of the Charter of the City of Berkley be amended to add a new Section 6.9, entitled "Marijuana," to state that: "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"?[5]

Background

As of 2014, the Safer Michigan Coalition, which was founded and run by Tim Beck, Chuck Ream and Justin Soffa, had been active in supporting pro-marijuana efforts in the state of Michigan for several years. Chuck Ream and Tim Beck had been working together for a decade on pro-marijuana efforts. The organization was dedicated to defending the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, approved in 2008. The group was also largely responsible for 14 local ballot measure victories, including five in 2012 and three in 2013.[6]

Past local marijuana measures in Michigan

Ream said, “In order to have some change you’ve got to have some way for the voters to express their opinion. In a city in Michigan you can run a citizen’s initiative.” The method was not available, however, for general law townships or counties. Macomb County and Wayne County were the only two charter counties in Michigan, and the charters of both counties allow for initiative and referendum. The Safer Michigan Coalition stated that it had its eye on pro-marijuana proposals in each county for 2015.[7]

Ream explained that the Safer Michigan Coalition created a template and provided support so that local activists could put various initiatives reforming marijuana use enforcement on the ballot. The different recipes offered by the coalition included:[6]

Ream expounded on the benefits of running local pro-marijuana efforts, saying, “These local initiatives are really, really cheap, compared to anything that can be done on a state level. For a few thousand dollars we can show that the average voter doesn’t support cannabis prohibition any longer.” Ream said that, although statewide petitions have been successful, the expense — at least a million dollars — of running a statewide campaign was somewhat daunting. Ream did say, “Every time that we give the voice to the voters they reject cannabis prohibition utterly, usually by 60% or more.” Attorney Michael Komorn stated, “I think that this strategy has been brilliant. It’s something where you can always claim victory in every year, these local initiatives.”[6]

Five local marijuana measures failed in Michigan in 2014, while six were approved.


Safer Michigan Coalition banner

Support

Supporters

Andrew Cissell, a Democrat running in the August primary as a candidate for state representative in the 27th district, supported and was a volunteer for the decriminalization petition drives across Oakland County, including Berkley, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Hazel Park and Oak Park.[1]

Cissell supported marijuana decriminalization at the local level and also announced his support for statewide legalization. With recent polls indicating voter support in Michigan for legalized marijuana, Cissell hoped his activism would help him win a position in the Michigan House. Cissell could personally benefit from legalization as well, since he faces felony marijuana charges in Oakland County Circuit Court.[1]


Up North Live, "Marijuana activists working towards legalization in Michigan," January 30, 2014

Arguments in favor

Supporters of decriminalization argued that use of small amounts of marijuana by consenting adults should not be illegal because it is not harmful and restrictions are not enforceable. They also argued that law enforcement should focus on more dangerous crimes and that any attempt to enforce marijuana prohibition is a waste of time. Tim Beck, co-founder of the Safer Michigan Coalition, said, "Its [sic] time for law enforcement and the court system to start dealing with real crime, with real victims; not harassing consenting adults for something that should not be a crime in the first place."[2]

Opposition

Berkley Mayor Phil O’Dwyer and the Berkley City Manager expressed concerns over the effects of legalization.[8]

Arguments against

Opponents argued that the local decriminalization measures showing up across Michigan were impotent and symbolic at best since they contradicted state and federal laws outlawing marijuana. Many opponents argued that the energy and money put into these petitions could be put to better use for the communities in which the initiatives were proposed.[9]

Dave Coulter, mayor of Ferndale, a city that featured a similar decriminalization initiative in 2013, said, “My understanding is that state and federal drug laws can’t be changed at the local level. Ferndale has a history of local activism through symbolic statements like this and they certainly have their place, but in terms of effecting actual change at the city level, a focus on economic development and jobs, our neighborhoods and our schools will have a greater impact.”[9]

Many opponents of the initiative expected law enforcement officials to continue making arrests under state law despite approved local decriminalization initiatives. In Flint, one of the five cities in which decriminalization and marijuana related measures were approved in 2012, law enforcement officials said that the vote was futile as police officers would continue to cite state law in order to arrest marijuana users.[10]

Mayor Phil O’Dwyer said that, while having little effect on the legality of the drug because of state and federal laws, the initiative could have “unintended consequences in signaling to young people that marijuana use is acceptable.” Mayor O'Dwyer continued, “In my view, Berkley families are better off by not extending the production, sale or use of marijuana in our city."[8]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in Michigan

On July 1, 2014, Safer Michigan Coalition activists turned in 700 signatures in an effort to qualify their initiative for the ballot. A valid initiative petition requires signatures from eight percent of the registered city voters. After submission, the city clerk said that signature verification should be complete by the end of the week. At the end of the process, the city clerk announced that more than enough of the submitted signatures were valid, qualifying the initiative for the November ballot.[11][12]

Similar measures

Recreational

Approveda Washington D.C. Marijuana Legalization, Initiative 71 (November 2014)

Colorado:

Maine:

Approveda City of Lewiston Recreational Marijuana Legalization Measure (November 2014)
Approveda City of South Portland Recreational Marijuana Legalization Measure (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Town of York Recreational Marijuana Legalization Measure (November 2014)

Massachusetts:

Michigan:

New Mexico:

Approveda Santa Fe County Marijuana Decriminalization Advisory Question (November 2014)
Approveda Bernalillo County Marijuana Decriminalization Advisory Question, Measure 1 (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Albuquerque Marijuana Decriminalization Measure (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Santa Fe Marijuana Decriminalization Initiative (November 2014)

Wisconsin:

Approveda Dane County State Legalization of Marijuana Referendum (April 2014)

Medical

California:

Approveda City of Santa Ana Council-Referred Medical Marijuana Regulation Ordinance, Measure BB (November 2014)
Defeatedd City of Santa Ana Medical Cannabis Restriction and Limitation Initiative, Measure CC (November 2014)
Defeatedd City of La Mesa Medical Marijuana Initiative, Proposition J (November 2014)
Defeatedd City of Encinitas Medical Marijuana Initiative, Proposition F (November 2014)
Defeatedd Nevada County Medical Marijuana Cultivation, Measure S (November 2014)
Approveda Butte County Medical Marijuana Ordinance 4075 Referendum, Measure A (November 2014)
Defeatedd Butte County Medical Marijuana Initiative, Measure B (November 2014)
Approveda Shasta County Outdoor Medical Marijuana Ordinance Referendum, Measure A (November 2014)
Defeatedd Lake County "Medical Marijuana Control Act" Initiative, Measure O (November 2014)
Defeatedd Lake County "Freedom to Garden Human Rights Restoration Act" Initiative, Measure P (November 2014)
Defeatedd City of Weed Permitting Licensing of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Advisory Question, Measure L (November 2014)
Approveda City of Weed Outdoor Marijuana Cultivation Ban Advisory Question, Measure K (November 2014)
Approveda Lake County Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance 2997 Referendum, Measure N (June 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Imperial Beach "Compassionate Access Ordinance" Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Act (June 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Napa Medical Marijuana Dispensary Referendum (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Jose Medical Marijuana Regulation Act of 2014 (November 2014)

Recent Michigan measures

Approveda City of Lansing Marijuana Decriminalization Proposal (November 2013)
Approveda Detroit City Marijuana Decriminalization Question (November 2012)
Approveda Flint City Marijuana Use Exemption Amendment Proposal (November 2012)
Approveda Grand Rapids City Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Proposal (November 2012)
Approveda Kalamazoo City Medical Marijuana Amendment Measure (November 2012)
Approveda Ypsilanti City Marijuana Amendment (November 2012)

See also

External links

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References