Volunteers who’ve walked the streets of Berkley for the last month said Monday they plan to turn in about 700 signatures today aimed at putting yet another marijuana-legalization question before yet another city’s voters.
By the time the door-to-door campaigns end, similar questions likely will appear on ballots in nearly 20 communities around the state, from Utica to the U.P., said leaders of Safer Michigan, a Detroit-based nonprofit group coordinating the far-flung petition drives.
Campaigners said they’re hard at work in Berkley’s neighbors, Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge. They expect that the three towns’ November ballots will ask residents: Should the city allow “the use, possession or transfer” of up to 1 ounce of marijuana on private property that is “not used by the public” by those 21 and older.
The same volunteers recently won a court fight with Oak Park to put similar language on that city’s Aug. 5 ballot. Hazel Park voters will also see the question Aug. 5.
While Colorado and Washington State fully legalized cannabis, Ohio and other states have taken a middle road by passing statewide changes that ease penalties for possessing small amounts. In Michigan, authorities including Gov. Rick Snyder have either declined to discuss marijuana or been steadfast in maintaining the war aaginst drugs. Those include Attorney General Bill Schuette and most members of the Republican majorities in the state Legislature.
“That’s why we’re going from city to city, trying to make it impossible for the people in Lansing to ignore this any longer,” said Tim Beck, 63, of Detroit, a retired health-insurance executive who has bankrolled many of the petition drives.
When such local ordinances pass — as they have in Detroit, Ferndale, Lansing, Jackson and other communities — local police chiefs typically vow that nothing will change because they say their officers will enforce state and federal laws against possessing cannabis.
But those planning to turn in petition signatures in Berkley, including Debra Young, 56, of Ferndale said passing such ordinances sends a message that the community wants police to put a higher priority on other crimes.
“This is not how people want their tax dollars spent,” Young said.
Berkley Mayor Phil O’Dwyer, director of mental health services at Garden City Hospital in Garden City, disagreed. Passing the ordinance “would send a certain level of acceptance of marijuana” to young people, said O’Dwyer, who counsels drug abusers in his practice.
“And there’s a variety of things that might go with this (including) the use of marijuana when driving,” he said Monday.
Local ordinances that ease penalties for possessing marijuna already are on the books in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Ypsilanti.
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