Kalamazoo to vote on going easy on marijuana use

Kalamazoo voters will decide next month whether to write a relaxed attitude toward marijuana use into the western Michigan community’s City Charter.  The ballot proposal would direct police to make enforcement of laws against possession of small amounts of marijuana a low priority. Supporters gathered about 2,600 signatures to win a spot for the charter amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot.  Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has come out against the proposal, as have several Kalamazoo City Commission candidates.

Other officials said they back the proposal. City Commissioner Don Cooney called it a “statement that our drug laws are in serious need of revision.”  “I support the amendment even though it seems clear from the state attorney general’s ruling that it will have little practical effect on the way law enforcement is practiced here,” Cooney told the Kalamazoo Gazette .  Commission candidate Nicholas Wikar signed the coalition’s petition when it was circulating.  “With every municipal service contributing to Kalamazoo’s financial burden, the taxpayers and residents reserve the right to prioritize the deployment of municipal assets and Public Safety Officers for violent crimes and community policing,” he said.

Candidates Bobby Hopewell, Hannah McKinney, Antwon Hunter and Barbara Hamilton Miller told the newspaper they oppose the proposal. David Anderson declined to give a position, saying it would have no effect on police practices anyway.  Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said the proposal wouldn’t affect policing because officers are required to enforce the law.  “The proposed charter amendment has no bearing or standing relative to the enforcement of state or federal law, which our officers have the full authority to enforce,” he said.  A misdemeanor charge of marijuana use is often secondary to what brings someone in contact with police, Hadley said.

“When a police officer makes a possession of marijuana arrest, it’s because they happen upon it either through a traffic stop or they smell it or they made an arrest for another offense and it happens to be in someone’s pockets or someone’s purse,” he said.  Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Fink said the Legislature already set the priority for how law enforcement responds to marijuana by making its use a misdemeanor.  “When you’re a prosecutor and you’re setting priorities, you’re really looking at the more serious offenses and, clearly, your more serious offenses are felony-level offenses — homicide, armed robbery, rape, child abuse,” Fink said.

via : AP

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