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Monday, October 6, 2014

VGIP UPDATE: The Empire Strikes Back - by Ben Horner

     This year, Coalition for a Safer Michigan has been more productive then ever. Campaigns to amend local laws to remove or reduce penalties for basic possession of marijuana have taken place in cities all over Michigan. Capturing the attention of those who oppose the reform of marijuana laws, some of these cities have decided to resist placing these petitions on the ballot in a timely manner.

     In Utica, the city was apple to find a flaw in the petition language. Any typo can render a petition dead upon arrival.  Coalition for a Safer Utica is attempting to fight the ruling that disqualified the petition on a technicality, but it may not be possible to win based on the limited amount of time left to place anything on this November’s ballot.

     Montrose and East Lansing are in the 45-day vs. 90-day confusion in the Michigan Home Rule Act.  This was an issue in Flint, back when the medical marijuana petition rolled through the city.  The argument is based on the whether the time the city, county and state all use to approve a petition runs consecutive or congruent. In these cases, the city has approved the petition but the county says that their clock starts after the city approves, not when the petitions are turned in. This is of course false, but it is an effective legal block that postpones putting the petition question on the ballot till the next election.

     This cycle of 17 cities in play, only 13 will be voted on this year, and two of which have already passed. At least three, Montrose, East Lansing and Gross Pointe Park will be pushed back to next year. Historically, these referendums have always passed, which brings the VGIP to consider what will happen next year. If the 11 cities all pass, will a serious campaign for statewide legalization of marijuana get rolling? Polling data after the November election could bring in funding for such a campaign. At this time, national funding groups like Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance are focused on states that have smaller populations then Michigan. They like to give money to states that have polling data that almost guarantees a win, typically over 57% in favor of reforming the marijuana laws.  

     If the money isn’t in by around the first of the year 2015, a serious campaign for legalization in 2016 is unlikely. If that is the case, then we will be continuing on with local petition drives. Anyone that wants to change his or her local laws next year please contact VGIP through the MMM Report or contact Chuck Ream and Tim Beck from Coalition for a Safer Michigan. Learning how to perform one of these campaigns is almost a lost art and can be used in so many possible ways. When our government refuses to follow the will of the people, we can circumvent the government and change the laws via local and statewide petitions. This is one of the last lines of peaceful defense of our state and country, in the preservation of democracy in this ever changing world.

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