If any single state represents the patchwork of marijuana laws growing across this country, it’s here in Michigan. In 2012, four cities passed ballot initiatives to remove local penalties for marijuana possession in private residences. In 2013, three more (including the capital city of Lansing) joined them. This year, 14 towns and cities are gearing up to put marijuana law changes before voters, and while state law still criminalizes possession of marijuana, advocates are winning people over one community at a time.
The first step in getting these law changes in place is getting them on the ballot. And that requires thousands of signatures. Signature drives are being organized and taking place across the state, where advocates are hopeful the tide of marijuana change will sweep through the following cities:
- Mount Pleasant
- East Lansing
- Port Huron
- Hazel Park
- Oak Park
In both the communities of Hazel Park and Oak Park, of Oakland County, signatures have been amassed and the issues will be on the ballots. Ironically, according to the Weed Blog, these two communities are considered the “worst places in Michigan for medical marijuana patients, caregivers or businesses,” despite having Ferndale, where marijuana is legal, wedged right in between them.
Case in point: in Oak Park, despite having enough signatures and all their t’s crossed and i’s dotted, the Safer Michigan Coalition had to go to court to get the initiative on the ballot. Officials tried to keep it off, claiming the bill’s language had to be approved by AG Bill Schuette’s office. Schuette didn’t respond so local officials said the initiative was as good as garbage. Fortunately an Oakland County Circuit Court sided with the people’s petition and ruled the law should be determined by voters.
When asked about the likelihood of these laws passing, Tim Beck of the Safer Michigan Coalition is confident.
“I’d say it’s definite,” Beck says. “We’ve never lost. These are not radical proposals. The majority of Michigan citizens believe that small-time marijuana should be way down at the bottom of the pile of offenses, and that’s why we’re winning.”
Beck’s confidence isn’t misplaced. His organization was behind decriminalization efforts in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Flint, Ypsilanti, Kalamazoo, and Detroit.
“We’ve got this down to a science,” he says. “It’s probably going to be the tipping point for Michigan to become a decriminalized state.”
While our state may not be going about it in the same manner as Colorado and Washington, where state law was changed by voters, we are getting it done one way or another. Until then, citizens are warned that marijuana remains illegal in most communities.