Medical Marijuana: Two Michigan Towns Pass Ordinances -- Officials Balk 11/18/05

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Initiatives to allow medical marijuana use in two Michigan towns passed by comfortable margins in elections held November 8. The Michigan cities of Ann Arbor and Detroit approved similar measures last year.

In the northern Michigan town of Traverse City, voters approved Proposal 3, an ordinance declaring medical marijuana use or delivery "the lowest law enforcement priority of the city," by a margin of 63% to 37%. In suburban Ferndale, just north of the Detroit city limits, Proposal D, which would remove the threat of arrest under city law for medical marijuana patients, passed with 61% of the vote.

Both ordinances differ from state law, which prohibits the possession and use of marijuana with no medical exception. Law enforcement and elected officials have vowed to continue to enforce state law. "We would charge under the state law rather than city ordinance in cases where there is a medical marijuana defense," Ferndale Police Captain Timothy Collins told the Royal Oak Daily News the day after the vote.

Similar attitudes were on display in Traverse City. Former police chief and current city commissioner Ralph Soffredine pooh-poohed the impact of the vote. "I don't think it means anything," he told the Traverse City Record-Eagle," pointing out that state law supersedes local ordinance. "We'll take it to court."

But Ferndale resident and University of Michigan student Donal O'Leary III, head of the Ferndale Coalition for Compassionate Care said the ordinance would send a message to police. Officers who arrest medical marijuana patients "would be going against the will of Ferndale residents who say that we don't want our neighbors prosecuted just for using the medicine they and their doctors agree is right for them," O'Leary said.

Under Michigan state law, marijuana use is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, possession by up to a year, and possession in a park by up to two years. Penalties for cultivation and distribution run from four to 15 years, depending on the amount.

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Issue #411 -- 11/18/05

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Editorial: Tell Me Why | Feature: Enhanced Mandatory Minimums Blocked in New Methamphetamine Bill | Feature: The 2005 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Long Beach, California | Feature: Deported for a Trace -- Farid's Tale | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Sports: Under Congressional Pressure, Major League Baseball, Union Agree on Drug Testing Policy | Medical Marijuana: Two Michigan Towns Pass Ordinances -- Officials Balk | Search and Seizure: Supreme Court Hears Search Case Where Wife Consented but Husband Refused | Latin America: Guatemala's Top Narc Arrested in US | Europe: Sativex Coming to England, Spain | Asia: Korean Actress Who Challenged Marijuana Law Sentenced to Prison | Web Scan: In These Times, Alternet on Sembler and Straight, New SSDP Blog | Weekly: This Week in History | Announcement: Senlis Council Seeking Research Proposals on Afghani Opium Licensing Schemes | Job Opportunities: Webmasters for MPP in DC, CRCM in Nevada | Internship Opportunity: Criminal Justice Policy Foundation | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar |

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