November 8, 2012
Detroit — Detroit voters overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to decriminalize personal use of marijuana, but users may not want to breathe easy just yet.
State and federal law still deem the drug illegal, and there’s disagreement about whether the change will mean anything.
On the same day voters in Flint, Grand Rapids and Colorado and Washington approved similar measures, Detroit passed Proposal M 65-35 percent, allowing those 21 and older to possess less than an ounce of marijuana without prosecution.
“We knew we were going to win,” said Tim Beck, chairman of the Coalition for a Safer Detroit, which lobbied for the change in Detroit.
“I truly believe that the city will not use its resources to prosecute small time marijuana users. There is no upside.”
But Joy Yearout, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Schuette, warned that “state law governing marijuana possession and use remains in full force, regardless of any local ordinances.”
It’s uncertain how Detroit officials will handle the changes. Sgt. Eren Stephens, the Detroit Police Department spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the department had no comment on Proposal M’s passage.
“We will be guided by the city of Detroit’s law department,” Stephens said.
The city’s corporation counsel, Krystal Crittendon, declined comment Wednesday, saying she wanted to speak to Mayor Dave Bing and council members about how to proceed.
Bing declined comment through a spokesman.
Wayne State University Law Professor Peter Henning said he doesn’t expect the new law to change much.
Since marijuana is illegal statewide, Detroit police officers still would have probable cause to search suspected users for the drug and could charge them under state law, Henning said.
In Grand Rapids, voters made marijuana possession a civil infraction punishable by a fine — rather than a misdemeanor that carried possible jail time — 59-41 percent.
In Flint, allowing possession of less than an ounce for those older than 19 was leading 57-43 percent with 95 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday afternoon.
Nationally, voters in Colorado and Washington on Tuesday became the first states in the nation to approve recreational use of the drug, setting up a potential showdown with federal authorities.
Some officials have been reluctant to allow local laws to supersede federal ones — as backers of a 2008 medical pot initiative in Michigan know well.
Statewide voters approved that measure in 2008, but much of that law is still being fought in court.
By Christine MacDonald
Staff Writer Darren A. Nichols and The Associated Press contributed..
Article from: The Detroit News