By Pat Maurer
Clare and Harrison city voters may be voting on marijuana decriminalization in November.
In Clare, “The Committee for a Safer Clare”, headed up by Eric Herbers, announced last week that they collected 124 signatures to put an issue on the ballot allowing adults to “possess, use and transfer small amounts of cannabis on private property.” Based on the population of registered voters, 112 valid signatures are required.
The ballot question for Clare reads:
“Shall Chapter 7 of the Charter of the City of Clare be amended to add a new Section 7.17, entitled ‘Marijuana,’ to state that: “Nothing in the Code of Ordinances shall apply to the use, possession or transfer of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana, on private property not used by the public, or transportation of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana, by a person who has attained the age of 21 years?”
A similar petition was turned in for Harrison City by Rick Phillips of “The Committee for a Safer Harrison” with 96 signatures. Ninety-five were valid signatures. At least 71 are required to place the issue on the November ballot.
The Harrison ballot question reads exactly the same, except for the beginning, which reads:
“Shall Chapter 9 of the Charter of the City of Harrison be amended to add a new Section 9.14, entitled ‘Marijuana,’……”
Both committees are subsidiaries of “The Coalition For A Safer Michigan,” which has sponsored similar petition drives around the State. The Michigan Coalition is headed up by Chuck Riam and Tim Beck, who have led and sponsored 14 other local marijuana initiatives before the passing of the MMMA Local Medical Marijuana law.
A similar petition in Saginaw has garnered 2,287 signatures of registered city voters. The campaign there needed 2,000 to place the issue on the ballot.
“We have been working on the petition drive since March,” Herbers said. He added, The majority of people, cardholders or not, are smoking, with the same penalties as drunk drivers. This is not a drug, it’s a plant.”
When asked why they are working to get it legalized, Phillips responded, “The majority of people want this to happen. Why should alcohol be legal and not marijuana? It is a safer product.” He said he is a card holder and a cancer survivor. “I had leukemia,” he said. “Marijuana gives great pain relief and I sleep better because of it, but I can’t smoke it in my own front yard. Patients should be free to use it just like other medicines.”
He continued, “It is against State and Federal Law, but it won’t be against local law. Cops will be able to focus on more serious issues if they are not focusing on marijuana.”
Clare County Sheriff John Wilson said, “I’m not sure how this would work. It can’t supersede State law. State law still says you can’t possess or use marijuana unless you have a valid medical card exempting you from prosecution.”
Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis said, “State and Federal laws will still apply (if these issues pass in November). We will continue to follow orders and enforce State laws.”
Because the proposal would change the City Charter, Clare City Manager Ken Hibl said, “This may, or may not make it on the Clare City ballot in November.
Clare City Attorney Jaynie Hoerauf reported that the “summary” of the purpose of the proposed amendment to the City Charter must be 100 words or less and “must be sent to the State Attorney General for approval” before it can be published. “The whole matter is on hold until after the A.G.’s office approves it.”
She also said that after the Attorney General gives his approval, the proposed charter amendment “must be submitted to the Governor for his signature. The proposal cannot go to the electors until after the Governor signs it, or returns it with his objections.”
Once it is approved, it must go to the voters of the city “not less than 90 days after the filing of the petition.” She concluded, “So until the Attorney General approval and the Governor’s signature (or objections) are received, the proposal sits and waits.”