Inside Lansing's Marijuana Decriminalization Proposal

By: Josh Sidorowicz Email
By: Josh Sidorowicz Email

The ballot language reads in full: “Shall the Charter of the City of Lansing, Michigan be amended such that nothing in the Code of Ordinances shall apply to the use, possession or transfer of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, on private property, by a person who has attained the age of 21 years?”

The signatures are in and now it's up to the voters as Lansing could soon be the next city in Michigan to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

It's something Jeffrey Hank, chairman of the Coalition for a Safer Lansing, said is long overdue.

"People are realizing that this is the thing to do and they're not seeing their politicians do it and that's why we were forced to act," Hank said.

They needed just a little more than 4,100 signatures to get the question on the ballot, Hank submitted more than 6,000 with Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope certifying the matter on Tuesday.

Hank said Lansing is a key piece in the state puzzle to decriminalize marijuana.

"Lansing is the Capitol city... it's symbolic and if Lansing passes this there's very few large cities in Michigan that haven't," he said.

Unlike outright legalization, decriminalization efforts look to make use, possession, or transfer of the small amounts of the drug a mere civil infraction, similar to no more than a parking ticket.

But in the case of Lansing's proposed ordinance, Hank said "it's very limited, very moderate and very reasonable."

So limited, in fact, the initiative only specifies preventing restrictions on use, possession, or transfer of the drug, something Swope said could pose an issue.

"It really doesn't give any clear direction or impact on how the police force is going to impact existing state and federal laws," Swope said. "Really it doesn't, as far as I can tell, change anything from what is currently happening in the City of Lansing."

The ballot language reads in full: “Shall the Charter of the City of Lansing, Michigan be amended such that nothing in the Code of Ordinances shall apply to the use, possession or transfer of less than one ounce of marijuana, on private property, by a person who has attained the age of 21 years?”

Even if it does pass, Swope said the current language wouldn't prevent Lansing police from enforcing state law and treating possession or use still as a criminal offense.

"Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, all have some provisions giving some direction to the police force," he said.

But Hank contends he isn't worried about the ambiguity or simplicity of the ballot language.

"When we send the message to them as we already have and as have many other cities that we don't want you to enforce these laws... we hope they respect that," Hank said.


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