Pubdate: Sun, 26 Oct 2014
Source: Daily Tribune, The (Royal Oak, MI)
Copyright: 2014 The Daily Tribune
Author: Michael P. McConnell
Page: A1


Marijuana decriminalization proposals are on the ballot in three 
south Oakland County communities on Nov. 4 and pro-pot organizers 
have yet to lose such an election.

Election Day in Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge and Berkley will 
show whether the activists' winning streak will continue in Oakland 
County and elsewhere.

"The poll numbers are somuch in our favor all we have to do is put 
the issue on the ballot," said Tim Beck, a retired health insurance 
executive and co-founder of the Safer Michigan Coalition, a statewide 
marijuana legalization group. "The closest election we've had was in 
Oak Park in August when we won (with) 53 percent. In Michigan, polls 
show 65 percent of people support decriminalization."

Pot decriminalization ballots passed in recent years in Detroit, 
Kalamazoo, Flint, Grand Rapids, Ypsilanti, Lansing, Ferndale, Oak 
Park and Hazel Park. Voters in nine other cities statewide besides 
those in Oakland County will also decide Nov. 4 whether to pass 
similar marijuana proposals. Those cities include Saginaw, Lapeer, 
Port Huron, Frankfort and others.

The proposals passed make it legal for anyone at least 21 or older to 
use, possess or transfer up to an ounce of marijuana on private property.

Local reaction by police and city officials is seldom supportive. 
They correctly point out that state and federal laws prohibit all 
non-medical marijuana use and supersede any local measures passed by 
voters for decriminalization.

"The political class doesn't like this," Beck said. "They don't like 
it when activists pop up and get local ordinances passed." Huntington 
Woods Mayor Ronald Gillham said his city hasn't taken an official 
position on the proposal in his town.

"This is not coming from the city," he said of the ballot proposal. 
"It's coming from outside. I think if it passes it's going to add 
problems and make law enforcement's job more difficult. It's hard to 
know how it will turn out and I really can't predict right now." In 
Berkley, city officials are reluctant to discuss the issue, said City 
Manager Jane Bais-Di-Sessa.

"It is up to the voters," she said. "I do know that our Public Safety 
Department director feels that if it passes he still has to enforce 
the state law." Former state representative candidate and medical 
marijuana patient Andrew Cissell of Oak Park led organization efforts 
to get the decriminalization issue on the ballots in Ferndale, Hazel 
Park, Oak Park and in the upcoming elections in Huntington Woods, 
Pleasant Ridge and Berkley.

"Marijuana is not a hardcore drug and it's not addicting," he said. 
"I think a majority of Americans think it should be legal and I'm 
trying to prove that in the local communities. I think there is a lot 
of injustice with marijuana." Cissell, 26, is still waiting to stand 
trial in Oakland County Circuit Court on four felony counts of 
marijuana delivery and manufacture. Cissell, who is also a registered 
medical marijuana caregiver, is accused of illegally selling pot to 
an informant for the Oakland County Sheriff's Narcotics Enforcement Team.

The marijuana decriminalization effort is a precursor to a possible 
move toget a statewide pot decriminalization proposal on the ballot 
as early as 2016, Beck said. Support for decriminalization is higher 
among voters than legalization, which is now only about 50 percent in 
the polls, Beck said.

"Seventeen states already have marijuana decriminalization," he said. 
"Our goal in Michigan would be legalization like they have in 
Colorado and Washington state."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom