East Lansing Group Submits Petition To Decriminalize Marijuana

It's only a few miles between downtown Lansing and East Lansing.
But when it comes to marijuana possession laws that's a big difference.

"It's time to change the laws and our political leaders haven't done so, so the people are taking the initiative to do so," said Jeffrey Hank, chairman of Coalition for a Safer East Lansing.

Voters in Lansing decriminalized marijuana last year, but anyone in possession of the drug in East Lansing can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Now Coalition for a Safer East Lansing is trying to get a similar amendment on the November ballot. The group is led by Hank who is also a democratic congressional candidate.

"People are thrown in jail, people's lives are ruined, they lose their rights, they get criminal records, it affects them getting jobs," Hank said of the current laws.

The group passed their petition in to the city clerk on Tuesday, with double the signatures needed. They're trying to repeal current laws and prevent the city from passing new ones affecting personal possession for adults over the age of 21.

"What we don't want to see happen is college students in particular but really everyone ending up with criminal records or going through the justice system," Hank added.

Some city council members say it's a step towards regional laws that wold help would help cut down on confusion.

"The sign of the times is that people are accepting marijuana," said Susan Woods, East Lansing City Council member. "If it's accepted in Lansing I think it's kind of silly that it's not accepted here."

City council member Ruth Beier also said she would support the amendment. She said marijuana laws relating to personal possession are expensive and difficult to enforce, but she doesn't believe the proposed amendment will make a big difference in safety, as the group's name indicates.

East Lansing police say they typically handle one marijuana possession incident every day. No matter what happens to the law, they're not concerned about enforcement.

"So whatever the law says we'll have to train our officers in the ways to enforce it--what to enforce, what not to enforce," said Captain Jeff Murphy of the East Lansing Police Department.

The city clerk will have 45 days to review the petition.


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