City of Pleasant Ridge Marijuana Decriminalization Proposal (November 2014)

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

The initiative measure removed any criminal penalties attached to possession and use of small amounts of marijuana. Specifically, the measure made it legal, according to the city's laws, 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 Pleasant Ridge Proposal
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 1,011 70.16%
No43029.84%

Election results via: Oakland County, Michigan

Text of measure

Ballot question

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

INITIATORY PETITION TO AMEND THE CITY OF PLEASANT RIDGE CITY CHARTER BY ADDING A NEW SECTION TO ARTICLE XII

"Shall Article XII of the City of Pleasant Ridge Charter be amended to add a new Section 12.10, entitled "Law enforcement priorities," establishing certain marijuana-related offenses as the lowest law enforcement priorities for the City of Pleasant Ridge?"[5]

Background

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.[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 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.[7]

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 that were on multiple local ballots across Michigan in 2014.[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]

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 previously 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 may 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 possession and 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. 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."[2]

Opposition

Arguments against

Opponents argued that the rash of local decriminalization measures showing up across Michigan are futile, impotent and symbolic at best since they contradict 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.[8]

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.”[8]

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 merely symbolic as police officers would continue to make arrests of marijuana users under state law.[9]

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 Costa Mesa "Initiative to Provide Revenue to the City of Costa Mesa Citizens" Medical Marijuana Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Costa Mesa "Act to Restrict and Regulate the Operation of Medical Marijuana Businesses" Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Jose Medical Marijuana Regulation Act of 2014 (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Jose Pension Measure to Alter Measure B Reform Charter Amendment (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