With all the attention being given to upcoming marijuana legalization ballot measures in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, we can't overlook the opportunity Detroit voters will have on November 6 to transform the Motor City into the “Marijuana City” should they pass the aptly titled Proposal M at the voting booth.
Proposal M is an ordinance that would amend the 1984 Detroit City Code by exempting all city residents age 21 and older from being prosecuted for use and possession of less than one ounce of cannabis on private property.
The Coalition for a Safer Detroit has been behind the Proposal M campaign, collecting the necessary signatures in 2010 to initially place the referendum on the ballot, but it was immediately rejected by the Detroit Election Commission on the grounds it would violate state law (while medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, any and all recreational use is outlawed).
Since then, the Coalition has been fighting on various plateaus of the court system to get Proposal M on the ballot, finally achieving victory in June 2012 when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the Election Commission had a “clear legal duty” to put Proposal M before Detroit voters. The Michigan high court also noted that a given city can change the legality of any ordinance once passed.
We interviewed Tim Beck of the Coalition for a Safer Detroit and he was upbeat about Proposal M: “We're confident of victory, the support for basic [pot] decrim is at 72 percent nationally and another good indicator is that we ran this same type of campaign in [the city of] Kalamazoo in November 2011 and we won with 66 percent of the vote.”
Those whose professions would be threatened by recreational marijuana legalization have unsurprisingly raised objections to Proposal M, such as former Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, who warned voters that a city ordinance can't trump state and federal law, ignoring the fact the feds rarely if ever prosecute those who just use pot and aren't growing it. Chief Godbee was forced to abruptly resign on Monday following claims that he was involved in a sexual relationship with a subordinate.
Detroit City Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr. inexplicably declared that if Proposal M passes, it will lead to higher unemployment rates among young men (presumably because more would smoke and thus flunk drug tests).
Beck is unfazed by such rhetoric: “The [Proposal M] campaign is going very well – there's been no substantive opposition to date. I recently was on a local radio talk show and they couldn't even find a black leader in Detroit to debate me” (Beck noted that Detroit is 85 percent African-American). He said the Marijuana Policy Project has also predicted victory for Proposal M.
Beck also addressed ex-Police Chief Godbee's argument, noting that even though Detroit police can still arrest and charge pot users under state law, “they can't collect any fine money or seize the suspect's car, and even if they did, the money would go to the state. There's no financial motivation to enforce the old pot laws, we're taking the money from them.”