First there were ten, then twelve. Now a total of fourteen cities in Michigan have finished or are actively seeking signatures on petitions to reform marijuana laws during local elections in 2014- and more cities are still being added.
Signature drives have kicked off in Montrose, Saginaw, Utica, Harrison, Clare, Onaway, Mount Pleasant, East Lansing, Lapeer, Portage, Berkley and Port Huron, according to Charles Ream of the Safermichigan Coalition. The Coalition is coordinating these 2014 petition efforts and has successfully steered thirteen past drives to victory.
All the proposed 2014 local ballot initiatives are amendments to each city’s charter, which require signatures equal to 5% of the registered voters in the respective communities. If certified, the petitions submitted in the twelve cities above will be voted on in the November general election.
Activists in two communities have already completed the signature gathering process and have assured their issues will be placed on the ballots during the state’s primary election in August. Those cities- Hazel Park and Oak Park- are both in southern Oakland County, the jurisdiction recognized as the worst place in Michigan for medical marijuana patients, caregivers or businesses. Wedged between those two cities is Ferndale, a community whose voters have twice enacted relaxed marijuana laws, including a full marijuana legalization measure passed in 2013.
If voters approve both ballot proposals in August, Oakland County will have the dual identity of being the county with the most liberalized marijuana communities but the least liberal marijuana attitude. Case in point: Coalition members had to sue Oak Park’s city clerk in May to prevent him from using an abstract interpretation of law to push their ballot proposal off the August primary and into the November general election.
More cities in the O. C. will probably get the chance to choose, too. Berkley is in Oakland County and Ream reports they are more than halfway finished collecting signatures on those petitions. Two additional Oakland County communities are on the list for a new wave of signature gathering that also includes a Wayne County city and a northern Lower Peninsula town, too.
Not all the news is good. Earlier this year activists in northern Michigan tried a unique move: a ballot proposal on a county-wide scale in Benzie County. “The county attorney challenged every rewrite of the proposed ordinances we presented,” Ream revealed. “After much effort by Rev. Steven Thompson and myself, the county nixed it.”
The effort to reform local marijuana laws, in absence of an updated state-wide program, has a rich history of success in Michigan. Five cities had already enacted their own, more lenient, marijuana regulations before the state-wide medical marijuana proposal was approved by 63% of the vote in 2008. Since that state-wide landslide victory, nine additional pro-marijuana measures have appeared on Michigan city ballots and nine times the electorate has said YES.