State Rep. Mike Shirkey will host a citizen town hall event in Jackson County on Aug. 14 to help create a public dialogue on drug enforcement strategies and policy. Shirkey said the debate needs to happen, based on both the citizen initiative that legalized medicinal marijuana and the introduction of legislation such as House Bill 4623, which would impose fines instead of jail time for the possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana.
"Michigan citizens expect and demand that we strive to balance the needs of personal freedom, public safety, pain management and a host of other factors as we determine how to best spend the people's tax dollars," said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. "Are we forcing law enforcement to police and jail recreational marijuana users instead of using time and money that should be going to battle our meth lab epidemic? Are we limiting reasonable options to end-of-life pain management by putting excessive restrictions on medicinal marijuana? Those are questions that politicians, law enforcement, and most importantly the general public, need to actively discuss and answer."
The town hall, which is free and open to the public, takes place from 5-7 p.m. at the Grass Lake Township Hall, 373 Lakeside Drive.
Shirkey is inviting several people to speak and is hopeful for a large turnout, regardless of people's position on the issue. State Rep. Jeff Irwin, the author of HB 4623, will attend as will former prosecutor James Gierach, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
Seventeen states have some type of marijuana decriminalization laws on the books, according to LEAP, and the organization said they were interested in coming to the Jackson area in part because of a local petition drive addressing decriminalization.
"My time working with law enforcement as a Cook County prosecutor and municipal attorney showed me firsthand how frequently we are turning average citizens into criminals and not spending enough time tracking down and dealing with the true bad guys in this equation," Gierach said. "You can be both tough and appropriate with drug enforcement once you start to differentiate and realize the serious downsides of a one-size-fits-all policy. We've already seen that with alcohol and prohibition, and I think we're going to see that very soon with recreational marijuana use as well."