By Andrea Urban
Entirely East Lansing
The legalization of adult use of marijuana may be coming to the city of East Lansing in May.
According to Marie Wicks, the city clerk of East Lansing, it is under the Home Rule City Act to collect enough signatures to place the legalization of marijuana on the ballot with a petition, which means this is a citizen-initiated effort.
Jeff Hank is the chairman of the group Coalition for a Safer East Lansing and it created a petition to legalize adult use of marijuana in the city of East Lansing if you are over 21 and on private property.
Many people got involved over the past year and the group ended up with about 2,300-2,400 signatures, enough to get on the ballot.
“We have police enforcing a victim-less crime,” says Hank, “plenty of other drugs cause more harm than cannabis, but we have people being thrown in jail and houses being raided in search of marijuana.”
“The more time wasted on arresting college kids for marijuana could now be used on dealing with real crimes like murder or robbery,” said Hank.
On top of legalizing adult use of marijuana at the local level, this could influence the federal government and state Legislature, Hank said.
According to CQ Roll Call, 8 ballot victories have occurred in Michigan cities including Mt. Pleasant, Saginaw, Port Huron, Oak Park and more.
Ethan Slabosky grew up in East Lansing and, when he heard about Hank’s petition, he wanted to get involved.
“I carried around a clipboard with the petition on it throughout the campus and the downtown area,” says Slabosky, “the folk and art festival was the perfect time to get citizens of East Lansing to sign.”
Slabosky said that a lot of people were very polite about signing or not, but several citizens did roll their eyes or mumble something about potheads.
“One thing I learned is I never knew who was going to say yes or no. To the people that were rude I just wish I would have asked them,’ what is so bad about this, like what is the big deal?’ ” said Slabosky.
The question with changing the city charter is, will East Lansing police follow the new local law or still enforce the state law of cannabis possession being illegal?
Police Lt. Steve Gonzalez of East Lansing said that it’s not their place to take a side and that they will enforce the laws that are out there.
“It would simply be unethical if we enforced some laws and not others, if the city of East Lansing decriminalizes marijuana, it is still illegal under state law,” said Gonzalez.
Wicks says, “If this law passes in May, students need to understand this isn’t a safe haven for them, under state law possession of marijuana is still illegal.”
Hank adds that it is the local police’s own decision to listen to voters or to continue to enforce state law. If this does pass and an East Lansing citizen over 21 has less than an ounce on them, Hank said, under local law they can’t be arrested or have any charges pressed against them by local police.
“Police officers can choose to arrest someone or to not arrest someone, but I just hope that officials see that we haven’t all transformed into criminals and that city hasn’t become more dangerous, but become more safe,” said Slabosky.
The election will be May 5, 2015, and any voter registered in East Lansing can vote on the ballot.