More and more municipalities are realizing that their marijuana laws are outdated. Incarcerating people for marijuana only offenses is a very expensive public policy, and some cities’ citizens are tired of waiting for marijuana reform to come at the state and/or federal level. It looks like the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan might be one of those cities that are taking matters into their own hands.
According to Lindsey Smith of Michigan Public Radio, “Grand Rapids voters could decide if people caught with marijuana should only be charged with a civil infraction, instead of a criminal charge. A group of residents begins collecting signatures Friday to put the measure on the November ballot in the city.
The group modeled the proposed changes to Grand Rapids’ city charter after Ann Arbor’s. In that city, people caught with marijuana pay just a $25 fine for the first offense, but get no higher than $100.”
I come from Oregon, which is arguably the most progressive marijuana state in the country. Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana, and our fine is $1000 (although it can be reduced, I paid $500 for instance). I never thought I would look at Grand Rapids, Michigan and say that they are doing it better than Eugene, Oregon lol. Of course, no fine at all is the ultimate goal, but this proposed change in Grand Rapids would be a dramatic step in that direction.
Below is the proposed charter change:
A proposal to amend the Grand Rapids City Charter, Title XVIII Miscellaneous Provisions; by adding Section 296; Restrictions of Marijuana as follows:
“(a) No person shall possess, control, use, or give away marijuana or cannabis, which is defined as all parts of the plant cannabis sativa l., whether growing or not; its seeds or resin; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the above, unless such possession, control, or use is pursuant to a license or prescription as provided in Public Act 196 of 1971, as amended. This definition does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compounds, manufacture, sale, derivative, mixture or preparation of the mature stalks, except the resin extracted therefrom, fiber, oil or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination.
(b) Violations of this section shall be civil infractions. Persons convicted of violating this section shall be fined $25.00 for the first offense, $50.00 for the second offense, $100.00 for the third or subsequent offense and no incarceration, probation, nor any other punitive or rehabilitative measure shall be imposed. Fines and all other costs shall be waived upon proof that the defendant is recommended by a physician, practitioner or other qualified health professional to use or provide the marijuana or cannabis for medical treatment. The court may waive all or part of the fine upon proof that the defendant attended a substance abuse program. It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under this section that the use or intended use of the marijuana or cannabis relieves, or has the potential to relieve, the pain, disability, discomfort or other adverse symptoms of illness or medical treatment, or restores, maintains or improves, or has the potential to restore, maintain or improve, the health or medical quality of life of the user or intended user or users of the marijuana or cannabis. Requirements of this subjection shall not be construed to exclude the assertion of other defenses.
(c) In all arrests and prosecutions for violations of this section, appearance tickets and the relevant procedures set forth in Michigan Public Act 147 of 1968, as amended, shall be used.
(d) No Grand Rapids police officer, or his or her agent, shall complain of the possession, control, use, or giving away of marijuana or cannabis to any other authority except the Grand Rapids City Attorney; and the City Attorney shall not refer any said complaint to any other authority for prosecution.
(e) No Grand Rapids police officer, or his or her agent, shall complain and the City Attorney shall not refer for prosecution any complaint, of the possession, control, use, giving away, or cultivation of marijuana or cannabis upon proof that the defendant is recommended by a physician, practitioner or other qualified health professional to use or provide the marijuana or cannabis for medical treatment.
(f) Should the State of Michigan enact lesser penalties than that set forth in subsection (b) above, or entirely repeal penalties for the possession, control, use, or giving away of marijuana or cannabis, then this section, or the relevant portions thereof, shall be null and void.
(g) The people of the City of Grand Rapids specifically determine that the provisions herein contained concerning marijuana or cannabis are necessary to serve the local purposes of providing just and equitable legal treatment of the citizens of this community, and in particular of the youth of this community present as college students or otherwise; and to provide for the public peace and safety by preserving the respect of such citizens for the law and law enforcement agencies of the City.
Lindsey Smith of Michigan Public Radio went on to write:
“We’re not really taking a stand on marijuana,” said Michael Tuffelmire, director of Decriminalize Grand Rapids (Decriminalize GR). Tuffelmire says the issue is less about marijuana and more about using scare taxpayer money wisely.
“People care about policy whether they use drugs or not use drugs. That’s not the issue. The issue is that people care about where their tax dollars are going, where their resources are going,” Tuffelmire said.
The proposed changes would not protect marijuana sales or overrule state or federal laws. It would only change how local police officers deal with marijuana possession within city limits.
Tuffelmire says marijuana possession charges harm the lives of many young people who have otherwise promising futures. He says the change would save money by reducing the number of occupied beds at the Kent County Jail. And Grand Rapids Police, he says, could focus on other types of crime.
The group needs to collect 6,500 valid signatures to get the proposed change on the November ballot.
GO GET ‘EM GRAND RAPIDS!!!!