By Sean Deters
Entirely East Lansing
Marijuana could become decriminalized in East Lansing on May 5. Around 2,300-2,400 signatures collected by a group called Coalition for a Safer East Lansing ensured a spot on the ballot.
Jeff Hank is the chairman of the group and is demanding reform.
“The goal is to bring awareness to a victimless crime that ruins the future for young people. The efforts of our law enforcement should be aimed toward serious crimes like murder and robbery. But instead, we’re throwing people in jail for smoking marijuana, and that needs to stop,” said Hank.
The proposal will allow the use, possession and transfer of up to 1 ounce of marijuana on private property by people 21 and older.
Ballotpedia.org said on its website that East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett supports marijuana decriminalization as a matter of public policy, but has serious concerns about attempting to advance it.
“East Lansing charter amendments and ordinances do not govern the campus of Michigan State University. To the extent that not having a local prohibition on marijuana impacts the legal landscape, we would have separate set of rules on each side of Grand River Avenue,” said Triplett(ballotpedia.org).
“It is important to note that if the proposal to decriminalize the possession and use of marijuana under East Lansing City ordinance is passed, the possession of marijuana is still a criminal offense under state law,” said Triplett.
Via email, Lt. Steve Gonzalez of the East Lansing Police Department elaborated:
“This is important to note for two reasons. One, we have received communication from the state Attorney General’s office, in regards to this matter, affirming that nothing in this proposed amendment limits the responsibility of an East Lansing city police officer to enforce the state’s criminal laws, including those applicable to marijuana. To the contrary, police are charged to enforce laws until and unless they are declared unconstitutional,” said Gonzalez.
“Secondly, being that officers are still obligated to enforce state law, it would be inappropriate for them to pick and choose which state laws they enforce, i.e. overlooking the state law criminalizing the possession of marijuana, while taking enforcement on other state law matters. It is imperative that as law enforcement, our officers remain objective in these matters and follow the law without bias,” said Gonzalez
Oak Park decriminalized marijuana, however, Ed Norris, who is that city’s clerk, said:
“Our law enforcement enforces state law even though we have a local ordinance that decriminalizes the possession of an ounce of marijuana. The ordinance change was a result of a ballot initiative on the August 2014 ballot,” said Norris.
Since marijuana has been decriminalized in Oak Park, Norris hasn’t seen any change in how the city operates.
“I don’t believe the local ordinance has had any effect since the city is choosing to follow state law. Regardless of what a city enacts, they will have to decide what laws to enforce,” said Norris.
Similarly, Michigan State University has regulations separate from East Lansing. Regardless if marijuana is decriminalized in East Lansing, Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor of Michigan State police said the rules on campus will remain the same.
“Michigan State’s code of conduct will adhere to the current version which prohibits marijuana on campus. Even if the bill passes, the rules on campus will not change,” said McGlothian-Taylor.
Voting takes place on May 5.