City of Clare Marijuana Decriminalization Proposal (November 2014)
|Voting on Marijuana|
|Not on ballot|
If approved, this measure would decriminalize the possession and use of less than one ounce of marijuana on private property by an adult above the age of 21. The measure only applies to city law. Marijuana would remain illegal according to state and federal law.
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.
Text of measure
The question on the ballot:
"Shall Chapter 7 of the Charter of the City of Clare be amended to add a new Section 7.17, entitled "Marijuana", to state that: "Nothing in the Code of Ordinances shall apply to the use, possession or transfer of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana, on private property not used by the public, or transportation of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana, by a person who has attained the age of 21 years ?"
The Safer Michigan Coalition, which was founded by and is run by Tim Beck, Chuck Ream and Justin Soffa, has been active in supporting pro-marijuana efforts in the state of Michigan for several years. Chuck Ream and Tim Beck have been working together for a decade on pro-marijuana efforts. The organization supported and is dedicated to defending the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, approved in 2008. The group is also largely responsible for 14 local ballot measure victories, including five in 2012 and three in 2013.
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 is not available, however, for general law townships or counties. Macomb County and Wayne County are the only two charter counties in Michigan, and the charters of both counties allow for initiative and referendum. The Safer Michigan Coalition has its eye on pro-marijuana proposals in each county for 2015.
Ream explained that the Safer Michigan Coalition created a template and provides support so that local activists can put various initiatives reforming marijuana use enforcement on the ballot. The different recipes offered by the coalition include legalization, which was approved in Ferndale, Lansing and Jackson in 2013, a Lowest Law Enforcement Priority model, enacted in Ypsilanti in 2012, a proposal requiring medical marijuana dispensaries, which was used in Kalamazoo in 2012, and the decriminalization initiatives proposed for multiple local ballots across Michigan in 2014.
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.”
The Safer Michigan Coalition is behind multiple initiatives in Michigan to decriminalize marijuana on the local level, including the effort in Clare. The efforts are spearheaded by local activists in each targeted city.
Tim Beck, co-founder of the Safer Michigan Coalition, said, “Our goal is to create confusion and chaos between state and local laws so our legislators in Lansing with step up to the plate [sic] and do the will of the people. Ultimately there needs to be marijuana legalization like they have in Colorado, where it is legal and regulated.”
Up North Live, "Marijuana activists working towards legalization in Michigan," January 30, 2014
Arguments in favor
Supporters of decriminalization argue that possession and use of small amounts of marijuana by consenting adults should not be illegal because it is not harmful and laws against it are not enforceable. They also argue that law enforcement should focus on more dangerous crimes and that any attempt to enforce marijuana prohibition is a waste of time. Beck 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."
Herbers argued that Clare has much bigger problems than marijuana use, giving the examples of an increasing presence of methamphetamine and more incidents of break-ins and burglary. Herbers asked, "Why shouldn't someone with a responsible mind smoke a joint, or whatever they prefer, if they stay out of trouble?"
Opponents argue that the wave of local decriminalization measures showing up across Michigan is futile, impotent and symbolic at best since the measures contradict state and federal laws outlawing marijuana. Many opponents argue that the energy and money put into these petitions could be put to better use for the communities in which the initiatives were proposed.
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.”
Many opponents of the initiative expect 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 merely symbolic as police officers would continue to arrest marijuana users under state law.
Path to the ballot
The Safer Michigan Coalition is coordinating efforts in many cities and a county in Michigan. The coalition planned to mobilize local activists to start collecting signatures on April 1, 2014. According to the Safer Michigan Coalition, signature collection in still ongoing in Clare.
- City of Lewiston Recreational Marijuana Legalization Measure (November 2014)
- City of South Portland Recreational Marijuana Legalization Measure (November 2014)
- City of Encinitas Medical Marijuana Initiative, Proposition F (November 2014)
- Nevada County Medical Marijuana Cultivation, Measure S (November 2014)
- Butte County Medical Marijuana Ordinance 4075 Referendum, Measure A (November 2014)
- Butte County Medical Marijuana Initiative, Measure B (November 2014)
- Shasta County Outdoor Medical Marijuana Ordinance Referendum, Measure A (November 2014)
- Lake County "Medical Marijuana Control Act" Initiative, Measure O (November 2014)
- Lake County "Freedom to Garden Human Rights Restoration Act" Initiative, Measure P (November 2014)
Lake County Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance 2997 Referendum, Measure N (June 2014)
City of Imperial Beach "Compassionate Access Ordinance" Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Act (June 2014)
City of Napa Medical Marijuana Dispensary Referendum (November 2014)
City of San Jose Medical Marijuana Regulation Act of 2014 (November 2014)
City of San Jose Pension Measure to Alter Measure B Reform Charter Amendment (November 2014)
Recent Michigan measures
City of Lansing Marijuana Decriminalization Proposal (November 2013)
Detroit City Marijuana Decriminalization Question (November 2012)
Flint City Marijuana Use Exemption Amendment Proposal (November 2012)
Grand Rapids City Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Proposal (November 2012)
Kalamazoo City Medical Marijuana Amendment Measure (November 2012)
Ypsilanti City Marijuana Amendment (November 2012)
- Local marijuana on the ballot
- Clare County, Michigan ballot measures
- November 4, 2014 ballot measures in Michigan
- What is Marijuana? website
- Safer Michigan Coalition website
- Marijuana Policy Project, "Michigan city ballot initiatives status," accessed July 2, 2014
- The Weed Blog, "12 Michigan Cities Targeted For Marijuana Ballot Proposals In 2014," April 3, 2014
- The Joint Blog, "Enough Signatures Collected to Put Cannabis Legalization to a Vote in 10 Michigan Cities, 1 County," April 2, 2014
- Michigan Secretary of State, "Sample Ballot for the City of Clare," accessed October 22, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- The Weed Blog, "Michigan Cities Sized Up For Local Marijuana Initiatives In 2014," January 5, 2014
- Ballotpedia staff writer Josh Altic, "Phone interview with Rev. Steve Thompson," July 10, 2014
- Michigan Live, "Marijuana legalization: Saginaw, Mount Pleasant among a dozen Michigan communities circulating local ballot petitions," May 1, 2014
- The Morning Sun, "Oak Park, Hazel Park among cities statewide targeted for pot decriminalization," March 18, 2014
- C and G News, "Petition seeks to decriminalize marijuana use and possession," August 7, 2013
- Michigan Live, "Flint decriminalization of marijuana vote only 'symbolic;' arrests will continue, city says," November 8, 2012
- Safer Michigan Coalition website, accessed July 10, 2014