Local marijuana policy reform initiatives pass in three Michigan cities
On Tuesday, November 5, voters in Lansing, Ferndale, and Jackson approved initiatives to remove local penalties for adults’ possession of small amounts of marijuana in a private residence. In the state capital, about 62% of voters cast their ballots in support of the measure, with the measures in Jackson and Ferndale passing with 61% and 69% of the vote, respectively. The victories follow on the heels of four other cities approving similar measures in 2012 — Grand Rapids, Detroit, Flint, and Ypsilanti. MPP extends its hearty congratulations to the local advocates who spearheaded the efforts.
Unfortunately, local police are still allowed to enforce state law even in those cities, and some cities appear determined to spend their limited resources on arresting people for a substance that is safer than alcohol, regardless of what voters want. There’s a clear mandate and need for statewide reform, and State Rep. Jeff Irwin is championing just that. He has introduced a bipartisan bill that would decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana in Michigan. HB 4623 would amend state law and remove all criminal penalties including jail time. You can voice your support for this proposal by contacting your state representative and state senator and asking them to get behind this important bill.
Michigan patients still need practical solutions
Seriously ill patients who rely on marijuana-infused products instead of smoked or vaporized medical marijuana were dealt a serious blow by the Michigan Court of Appeals in a recent decision named State v. Carruthers. The court decided that extractions, including resin, are not protected by the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. Since most forms of edible marijuana are made with extractions, this creates a tremendous burden on patients. The decision is being appealedto the Michigan Supreme Court with the help of several key attorneys who work closely with the medical marijuana community. In addition, Rep. Eileen Kowall introduced HB 5104, which would clarify that extracted resin, one of the key ingredients in non-smoked forms like edibles, tinctures, and topicals, is included in protections under the law.
Other efforts are also underway to improve patients’ access to their medicine. Rep. Mike Callton is sponsoring HB 4271, a bill that would allow dispensaries in cities and towns that recognize and regulate dispensaries. The bill enjoys broad bipartisan support, but has remained in committee since shortly after it was introduced. Please take a moment to ask your state representative and state senator to support HB 4271 so that patients can have safe, state-legal access to their medicine.
Yet, while HB 4271 remains in committee, the legislature is spending valuable time on SB 660. The effort is a distraction and a waste of time because the bill itself says it wouldn’t even go into effect unless federal law changes. Michigan legislators should focus on sensible solutions for seriously ill Michiganders. Please take a moment to ask your state representative and state senator to support HB 4271 so that patients can have safe, state-legal access to their medicine.
Marijuana laws in Michigan (non-medical)
Michigan law is unusual in that it includes separate penalties for both the possession and use of marijuana. Possession of any amount of marijuana – whether several ounces or a single gram – is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Separately, use of marijuana is also a misdemeanor, punishable by 90 days in jail and a fine of not more than $100. Lastly, possession in or within 1,000 feet of a public or private park can land the offender in jail for up to two years.
One of the most tragic failures in the war on marijuana is how hard it impacts racial minorities. The ACLU’s 2013 report entitled “The War on Marijuana in Black and White”clearly shows how disproportionally African-Americans in Michigan and other states have been affected and is a tremendous resources for advocates. In Michigan, African-Americans are over three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses than whites, even though both races consume marijuana at similar rates. Please ask your legislators to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older and regulate it like alcohol, to end this failed, wasteful, and destructive war.
If you’ve been arrested or need legal assistance, there are many options in the state, but MPP recommends Neil Rockind, PC, who generously provided MPP with pro bono legal assistance. Neil is a zealous and effective advocate.
The Michigan Medical Marihuana Program
Application forms, along with the full text of the law and accompanying regulations, can be found at the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website.
Under the MMMA, patients can choose to either cultivate their own medical marijuana in an enclosed, locked facility or to designate a caregiver to do so for them. Caregivers can assist no more than five patients. Also, note that in late 2012, the legislature passed several bills that changed the way the program works. Here’s a helpful summary (PDF) of those new laws.