By Steve Elliott
Marijuana advocates in Michigan say they're excited about getting proposals on the November ballot in Ferndale and Jackson -- and possibly in Lansing -- to make possession of cannabis no worse than getting a traffic ticket.
"I have 600 signatures here," said Andrew Cissell, 25, of Ferndale on Tuesday morning, reports Bill Laitner of the Detroit Free Press. Cissell turned in a pile of petitions at the counter of City Clerk Cherilynn Brown -- almost double the number the proposal needed to qualify for the November ballot, Brown said.
"We will check these and then present them to City Council on August 12," Brown told Cissell as a crowd of supporters looked on.
"To me, this is a no-brainer," Cissell said. "If alcohol's legal, I think marijuana should be, too."
Activists in Jackson handed in petitions for a similar proposal to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis, according to Tim Beck, 61, of Detroit, chairman of the Safer Michigan Coalition.
"We have provided every signature, and our surveys show this is going to pass," Beck said. Beck, a retired CEO of an employee health insurance firm, has spent more than a decade advocating the legalization of marijuana.
Ferndale Police Chief Tim Collins sneered at the efforts, calling them "a waste of time." Possession of marijuana would still be illegal, Chief Collins said, "and the law's the law."
By Steve Elliott
State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would make the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana a civil infraction punishable by a fine, rather than a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
"We know, and the people here in Michigan know, that marijuana prohibition is not working," Irwin said during a press conference at the Capitol, reports Jonathan Oosting at Mlive.com.
"Despite the fact that we're spending a minimum of $325 million a year on arresting, trying and incarcerating marijuana users in this state, we know marijuana has never been more available," Irwin said. "We know that law enforcement has not been successful at keeping marijuana out of the hands of anyone in the state."
Irwin has at least two Republican cosponsors for the bill; joining him at a press conference were Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon), Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville).
"This is the right time to have this debate in Michigan," Rep. Shirkey said. "We're using a lot of money, energy and resources in Michigan and across the nation to accomplish something we've failed at.