Newsbrief: Ann Arbor Officials to Ignore Voters' Will on Medical Marijuana 11/12/04

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Last week, voters in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, voted by a whopping 74% margin to approve an amendment decriminalizing the use of marijuana for medical reasons. Within days Ann Arbor Police Chief Dan Oates announced that his department would ignore the new law. In a written statement issued two days after the election, Oates said he had directed officers to continue enforcing all marijuana laws as they had prior to the vote.

Ann Arbor's medical marijuana amendment would not prevent state or federal officials from making arrests under state or federal law. But since, according to the Michigan Daily, 99% of Ann Arbor pot arrests are made by local police, the amendment, if enforced, would significantly reduce the likelihood that a medical marijuana user in the city would run into legal hassles.

Chief Oates cited the opinion of City Attorney Postema, who told the Michigan Daily News that although the initiative was legally placed on the ballot, case law in Michigan dictates that when city ordinances mandate softer penalties than state law, law enforcement officials can prosecute people under the harsher state law anyway. Based on that case law, Postema said, his office is not bound to observe the will of the voters.

What Postema neglected to say is that officials could also choose to obey the ordinance, but have decided not to. And that is not sitting well with Scio Township Trustee Chuck Ream, who led the petition drive. Yes, Michigan law allows officials to ignore such charter amendments, he told the Daily. "But the citizens of Ann Arbor have spoken just as clearly," he said. "And people who would like to be employed by the city should either listen to the voice of the people when they vote or they should seek employment... in another community. If the people of Ann Arbor didn't speak clearly [on Election Day], then I don't know what it takes."

If officials refuse to enforce the law, said Ream, the county could be hit with a costly lawsuit.

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Issue #362, 11/12/04 Editorial: The Spirit of Lawfulness | Ever Upward: At Nearly 1.5 Million, US Prison Population at New High | In an Hour of Conservative Ascendancy: Prospects for Drug Reform at the Federal Level During the Next Four Years | Syracuse Reconsiders Drug Policy | Newsbrief: Congressional Drug Warrior Threatens Canada Over Marijuana Legislation | Newsbrief: In New Twist in Thai Drug War, Police Detain and Drug Test Club Goers | Newsbrief: Ann Arbor Officials to Ignore Voters' Will on Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: Georgia Supreme Court Says Wife Can't Consent to Search of Home Against Husband's Will | Newsbrief: Austin, Texas, Cop Killed Enforcing Marijuana Possession Law | Newsbrief: Supreme Court to Look at Drug Dogs in Traffic Stops | This Week in History | The DARE Generation Returns to DC: Students for Sensible Drug Policy 2004 National Conference Next Month | Apply Now to Intern at DRCNet! | DrugWarMarket.com Seeking Information, Affiliations, Link Exchanges | The Reformer's Calendar
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