Legalize Marijuana in Detroit? Voters Likely to Decide in Fall

Should it be legal to possess a small amount of marijuana in Detroit?

Residents should have the opportunity to weigh in this November, as the Detroit City Council today passed up an opportunity to amend a city ordinance and make it legal themselves.

Last month, the Coalition for a Safer Detroit submitted more than 6,100 petition signatures to City Clerk Janice Winfrey, which she later approved.

The group’s proposal would amend the city code to allow anyone over the age of 21 to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana on private property. Driving a motor vehicle while high would remain illegal.

The City Council had 30 days to approve the amendment or pass it on to voters, and The Detroit News reports they chose the latter option today after a recommendation from city attorney Dennis Mazurek.

Mazurek told the council it could not pass an ordinance conflicting with state law, but he refused to comment when reporters asked him what would happen if voters approved the change.

On its website, the Coalition for a Safer Detroit argues that Detroit police have more pressing concerns than marijuana use, suggesting that “in a time of diminishing tax revenue and limited resources, Detroit law enforcement must focus on crimes which have a direct impact upon people and property in the community.”

The group also acknowledges that state laws trump local ordinances, noting that officers could still charge a marijuana user under state law if they chose.  But like the federal government’s deference to state medical marijuana laws, the group hopes the local law would send a message to city officials that residents want law enforcement resources used in other ways.

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