18 Michigan Cities File Marijuana Law Reform Petitions, or Who says pot makes you lazy?



by Rick Thompson/The Compassion Chronicles

August 1, 2014

ANN ARBOR- Marijuana rights advocates in 18 cities have made the deadline to submit petitions to place various pot proposals on this year’s ballot. The vast majority of the proposals: legalization of adult use and possession of cannabis, either one ounce or two and one-half ounces per person.

During the last decade voters in Michigan cities have approved local marijuana law reform every single time it has been offered to them- 14 straight victories. In one single year that number will likely more than double.

A broad cross section of Michigan communities are represented in the 2014 grouping, from urban centers like Saginaw and Portage to tiny towns like Harrison and Onaway. Two of the cities submitted petitions early and will feature the question on their primary ballots in an election taking place on Tuesday, Aug. 5; the other qualifying cities will have their issues decided during the November general election.

How many of these ‘Sweet Sixteen’ will make it to the ballot is not clear. Many have already had their signatures verified and have their place secure, but cities have up to 45 days to complete their petition verification process. Two cities who seem to be dragging their feet: Saginaw and East Lansing, according to Tim Beck of the Safer Michigan Coalition.

Beck spoke about the local ballot efforts during a broadcast of the Planet Green Trees Radio Show on July 31 as he and Chuck Ream, co-founder of Safer Michigan, appeared with Debra Young as phone-in guests.


“We’ve been getting threatening noises out of Saginaw,” Beck said, indicating that the Safer Michigan group “may have to litigate.”

Ream discussed difficulties with East Lansing. “They are not very cuddly, either,” he revealed. “They are going to be going back to the little forms that you file when you register to vote to see if the signatures are the same.”

Safer Michigan has sponsored or supported nearly all of the efforts in 2014- and those successful efforts from the past decade, too.

Young is an organizer who led several successful petition drives in Oakland County, including swanky Pleasant Ridge and both of the August primary cities, Oak Park and Hazel Park. All told, six different cities in that single county could elect to legalize the possession and use of marijuana by adults. Oakland County community Ferndale did the same thing in 2013.

Although six legalization drives in one county is a remarkable thing in itself, Oakland County is well known as the toughest county in the state for marijuana patients, caregivers and businesses. They prosecuted Bob Redden and Tori Clark for four years, starting in 2009, over suspected violations of the then-new Michigan Medical Mariihuana Act, eventually ending the charade by offering up a misdemeanor charge. Redden is 73 years old. They prosecuted Barb Agro, a grandmother, because of her affiliation with a medical marijuana distribution center. Her raid came in 2010 and the case is still ongoing. Her beloved husband, Sal, died of a heart attack just a short time after the stressful and excessive raids on his home and the homes of his children.

It’s not just Oakland County government that has been obstructive to businesses- including raids on Clinical Relief, Big Daddy’s and Everybody’s Cafe- but individual cities in the county are trying to resist change, too. One of those cities, Oak Park, refused to place the legalization issue on the August primary ballot, claiming they could wait until November’s election to put the issue before the voters.

“It was an invitation to a lawsuit,” Beck recalled. Oak Park was sued, they lost, and the issue will be voted on during the primary election.

That pattern of obstruction is being practiced in other cities, too. Onaway, with a population of only 880, may try to resist their requirement to place the issue before the voters and have convened a special meeting on August 4, according to Brad Forrester of the Safer Onaway Coalition. They too may try to cite the obscure and already-defeated notion that approval from the state’s A.G. is needed to proceed with the ballot question. Other cities may try this, too, as they have no other legal recourse to prevent the people from deciding for themselves about marijuana.

Not all communities have been combative. “The clerk worked right along with them in Mount Pleasant,” Ream praised. “It was great in Mount Pleasant.” The clerk in Clare informed the petitioning crew that they were 1.1 signatures short- an odd number, but one that was easily overcome. France Bunche had a similar story of cheer and cooperation in Montrose, and Young described positive interactions she’d had with cities on the radio broadcast.

Michigan cities that have already confirmed the marijuana issues will appear on their November ballot: Lapeer, Clare, Harrison, Mt. Pleasant, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Montrose, Keego Harbor, Pleasant Ridge.

Cities whose petition crews have submitted signatures to, but have not yet confirmed the petitions: Port Huron (anticipated approval), Utica (anticipated approval), Frankfort, Onaway, Portage, Saginaw and East Lansing.

Listen to the interview on the Planet Green Trees Radio Show recording of episode #211 HERE.


Rick Thompson