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Clare, Harrison petitions may add weed to ballot

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

A Statewide move aimed at legalizing or decriminalizing possession, use or transfer of small amounts of marijuana for persons on private property is underway.

Local petitions are being circulated in at least eight cities [including Mt. Pleasant, Clare and Harrison] according to MLive columnist and political analysis Tim Skubick in his March 14 column.

Behind the scenes, Skubick said, the Safer Michigan Coalition is hand-picking local leaders to head up petition drives, although names were not listed in his or other articles on the petition drives.

If successful, the petitions would place the issue on the August Primary ballot or as part of the November election, right in the middle of the race for governor, U.S. Senate and the Michigan House and Senate.

“While this continues to unfold, efforts are still taking shape for a 2016 “statewide legalization initiative” impacting everyone if votes say yes,” Skubick wrote. The coalition will run a poll later this year and if public support is there, “the likelihood of statewide funding gets closer than ever.”

Similar proposals have already been on local ballots in eight other cities, garnering approval from the majority of voters in every vote. There were five in 2012 and three initiatives in 2013, according to an Internet post by Rick Thompson January 5th.

Michigan marijuana law reform leaders are promising to continue the trend of passing ballot initiatives in more Michigan cities this year, saying that voters should be allowed to express their opinion on the matter. All but one of the 2012 ballot proposals were initiated by the Safer Michigan group.

Safer Michigan leader Chuck Ream of Ann Arbor was interviewed during the year’s first episode of the Planet Green Trees Internet radio broadcast. He said, “In a city in Michigan you can run a citizen’s initiative.” Although this method is not available at a township or county level, Ream explained that the Safer team has created a set of templates activists can use to put various styles of marijuana law reform before their city’s voters.

An article by Detroit Free Press reporter Bill Laitner said, “The push, which is to include running some free-the-weed candidates for local and state office, is sure to jar law-enforcement officials and youth drug prevention groups that for years have fought efforts to ease marijuana laws.”

Laitner wrote, “And even when the proposals pass, they are merely symbolic, according to police chiefs in Detroit and Ferndale, both of whom have vowed to continue making marijuana arrests under state laws.”

Tim Beck, 62, a pro-marijuana Detroiter who cofounded the Safer Michigan Coalition of cannabis supporters and a retired health insurance executive, has worked behind the scenes for more than a decade on legalization campaigns across the state. He said of the elections, “This is going to be big.”

He explained that the language of the ballot proposals is expected to go beyond Michigan’s medical marijuana act, passed by voters statewide in 2008, to approve limited steps for making nonmedical possession either legal in small amounts or an offense equivalent to a traffic ticket.

Most proposals will appear on November ballots.

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