The residents of Detroit may get to vote this summer on a city ballot initiative that would remove all city-based criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for people over 21. Voters had been denied the chance to vote on this in 2010, but last Friday in a 2-1 decision the Michigan Court of Appeals concluded the city acted inappropriately in keeping the measure off the ballot.
Back in 2010 the group, Coalition for a Safer Detroit, collected sufficient signatures to put their decriminalization measure on the city ballot. The measure was prevented from going before the voters by the Detroit Election Commission, which voted to keep it off the ballot. That decision was originally upheld by the Wayne County Circuit Court. This kept the measure from appearing on the ballot in 2010, because the Coalition ran out of time for further appeals.
Recently, though, the Coalition won its appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision. The Court of Appeals concluded the city had a clear legal duty to place the measure on the ballot regardless of whether the city law would be arguably inconsistent with state law.
The decision paves the way for the measure to appear on the ballot in Detroit this August, unless city officials decide to take the legal fight further.
If voters approve the measure it will amend the city code to remove city penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults over 21. Possession would still be illegal under state law, so individuals in the city could still be arrested under state law. The passage of this local ordinance would, however, be a powerful statement by the people of Detroit about how they want their limited police resources used.