Court: City cannot keep marijuana question off ballot

Feb 10, 2012

A measure to eliminate criminal penalties for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana in Detroit could be voted on by city voters this coming summer.

The Michigan Court of Appeals says a Detroit elections panel made a mistake when it refused to put the question on the ballot in 2010.

 The appeals court overruled decisions by the elections panel and a judge, who said the initiative was not eligible for the ballot because it conflicts with state drug laws.

Tim Beck is a marijuana advocate and organizer of the petition drive to put the question to voters. He is also one of the authors of the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana amendment.

Beck says the court decision is a victory for efforts to lift restrictive marijuana laws and for the ballot process.

“The message is respect the rights of the voters and respect the rule of law,” he says.

The city could appeal the ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court. If the ruling is upheld, the question would go to the city’s August election ballot.

In 2008, voters in Kalamazoo approved an initiative that instructed police to make enforcement of marijuana laws a low priority.